December 18, 2010

Senate Clears Path to End Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Washington, D.C. Capping 17 years of vocal opposition that began in 1993 with a ‘no’ vote in the House of Representatives, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) supported the repeal today of what he has long called “a toxic combination against national security and personal liberty” by voting for cloture on legislation he cosponsored to finally end the policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  The Senate is schedule to pass the repeal at 3:00 PM today.

Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote, Wyden said: “I don’t care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are. You ought to be able to serve.”

Since 1993, more than 14,000 qualified service members have been discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Of those discharged, nearly 10 percent were experts in critical foreign languages like Farsi, Arabic and Chinese.  According to the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell cost the military more than $555 million to replace and retrain those soldiers who had been forced out by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Passage of the repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act allows a certification process to begin that will repeal the policy once the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all certify that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not harm military readiness.  The House of Representatives passed the legislation earlier this week.

A transcript of the Senators remarks are below:

Mr. Wyden:   Let me just say briefly, Mr. President, why it was so important for me to be here today. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is wrong. I don't care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are. You ought to be able to serve.

The history of our wonderful nation is spotted with wrongs, but this institution is at its best when it corrects them. That's the opportunity we will have today.

“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” has resulted in the discharge of over 14,000 patriotic and talented service members who are otherwise qualified to serve their country. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report says that nearly 10 percent of those discharged under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” have been linguists trained in critical languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Chinese. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, let me tell you, turning away Arabic, Farsi and Chinese speakers is bad for national security.  It makes it harder for us to win the war on terror. And don't just take my word for it.  The fact of the matter is the military now understands how important it is to make this change.

Today the Senate has the opportunity to be on the right side of history. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is a wrong that should never have been perpetrated. Let us move to end it today.

Again, Mr. President and colleagues, let me say thank you to all of you, and I look forward to being with all of you next year.  Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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