12:21: We've just adjourned. Thanks for following along for the last two days. And keep visiting First Read often for updates on all the latest news in politics.
12:16: McCain chuckles at the conclusion of this 3 hour-plus hearing, "thanks for listening." Notes other problems apart from DADT that Republicans have with the authorization bill.
12:12: "We've got to find a way to get it done before we leave here," Lieberman says of the underlying Defense Authorization bill to which DADT repeal is attached.
12:11: Lieberman cites a number he also mentioned yesterday: Only 15 percent of gay and lesbian servicemembers say that they would want their sexual orientation known. He doesn't believe that there will be a great "outing."
12:10: Lieberman, who differs with his frequent ally John McCain on this issue, says that Congress is capable of addressing jobs as well as DADT at the same time. "We can do both," he says.
12:04: Noting his recent re-election campaign, McCain says none of his constituents have pleaded with him to get to work on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He also mentions this morning's unemployment numbers.
"We should not be questioning anybody's integrity or motives," McCain says, adding that he disagrees with Roughead and Cartwright but that he "respects" their opinion. He says the panel's candor restores his faith in the "professionalism" of military leadership. He reiterates his request for further hearings to hear more from active troops.
"Our economy is in the tank and the American people want that issue addressed," says McCain.
"To somehow believe that this is a compelling issue at a time when we are in two wars ... we should not be exercising a rush to judgment."
He says he will not vote for this to move forward and that he does not think that a majority of his colleagues will either.
12:03: McCain is back, opens with a wry remark about how the chiefs must have enjoyed their "lecture on the legislative process here in the United States Senate."
11:58: Levin presses Schwartz on his suggestion that implementation be delayed: To delay those things to 2012 is "arbitrary," Levin says.
Address DADT during the lame duck "wasn't our timing" Levin says, noting that legislation has been in front of the committee for months. "We didn't set the time for the report" either, he adds.
11:55: Levin again quotes the "big, mean, kills lots of bad guys" anecdote. Always gets a little giggle from the audience.
11:51: Brown says that if the courts act to repeal the policy first: "It would be exceedingly disruptive to the force." But he urges the chiefs to insist to Gates and the other signers of certification (if there is legislation passed by Congress) that their concerns are addressed.
Casey: "I'm very comfortable that we have access" to Gates, as he has said several times today.
11:48: Brown says the only issue that is "important in my mind, when we're fighting two wars, is the safety and security" of the men and women serving abroad.
"If in fact we do move forward with this point ... I'm hopeful that when or if this does get repealed that you will be given the proper respect and input with the three signers who are going to certify, to let them know what your concerns are."
11:47: From Brown's bio:
Senator Brown is a 30-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.
11:45: Brown argues that, as a member of the military, he understands this issue better than many lawmakers on the Hill who have not served in uniform.
He asks why the survey was voluntary. He says that during his service, surveys were mandatory.
Casey: "I honestly don't know why they chose to do it the way they did it."
11:45: Sen. Scott Brown is now up.
11:41: Hagan mentions Mullen's argument that war facilitates change rather than hinders it.
"Frankly, I think that's a bit of a stretch," Casey responds.
11:38: Would it be preferable for Congress to repeal the law before the courts address this, Kagan asks. That's the argument that's been made by Gates and Mullen.
Service chiefs say that the ambiguity of the fluctuating court decisions and injunctions in the past must be clarified.
11:36: Hagan asks Casey if there's a timetable for implementation with which he's comfortable. He declines to name a time period.
"It would be a matter of months" at least in the case of the Navy, Roughead says.
11:34: Sen. Hagan of North Carolina is up. Key senators on the GOP side from whom we have not heard: Collins, Brown, and Graham. Brown is in the room, no sign of the other two.
11:30: Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is speaking about an ACLU case about the policy that was not appealed. He slams Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan "whose personal views on this were so well known" before her confirmation hearing -- which Sessions led for the GOP side earlier this year.
11:26: Republican Sen. Sessions up now. He's using one of his questions to ask Schwartz about an issue involving the disclosure of competitive procurement information about a tanker.
11:24: Yesterday's discussion centered around the methodology of the Pentagon survey and the question of 'whether' the ban should be repealed. Today's is more focused on 'when' the best time to repeal and implement the changes might be.
11:21: Manchin also asks about the impact of a repeal on military chaplains. They appear to agree that the impact would be "modest" and that each chaplain has a mandate to minister to the entire flock.
11:19: Manchin asks about budget issues for additional benefits offered: "Is this going to be a cost-effective measure?"
11:18: New Sen. Manchin of West Virginia up. Yesterday he joked that he's "the new kid on the block."
11:11: Wicker opposes repeal, but he appears to agree with Gates in saying that there will be high levels of intense continued combat in the future: "We're always going to be asking that kind of fighting man to be operating under those kinds of conditions."
Amos: "This is a bad time, senator."
11:07: Sen. Wicker up now. Wicker says addressing the ban now, during a time of war, is akin to last year's discussion of health care reform while unemployment was at crippling highs.
11:05: Breaking now: As the nation's military top brass discusses the impact of policy on combat troops, President Barack Obama arrives in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit to U.S. forces there.
11:01: Sen. Udall up for questions now.
11:00: Thune: "I think I know where all this is headed" he says during the conclusion of his questions.
10:55: The chiefs have reiterated that they believe that they have an open line of communication to Gates, and they have not advocated to be included in the list of officials who must certify legislative wording of repeal.
10:53: Thune: "How should we as members of Congress weigh the fact that there is not consensus" between each branch of the military?
Casey: "I think you should be grateful for that ... I think we'll get a better decision out of it."
10:52: Republican Sen. Thune now up for questions.
10:45: Webb asks if any of the service chiefs believe that any gay or lesbian servicemembers currently serving without violating standards of conduct should leave the service. None say yes.
So, if we keep the policy as it is now, Webb asks, "What is it we should be doing when [someone serving] are 15 years into their service and they want to be able to live an honest and open lifestyle?"
Casey: "Senator, we'll follow the law."
10:43: Sen. Webb up next. He initially voted against moving forward on DADT legislation before the Pentagon report was released, but yesterday he praised the report's writers and said the Working Group on the issue had done "excellent" work.
10:39: Chambliss asks Casey and Amos if repeal would have a positive or negative impact on the readiness of troops.
Casey says "It would increase the risk on the safety of our troops," as he said in his opening statement.
Amos: "I think it would absolutely have an impact on the combat forces" although he does not want to say the same of the non-combat Marines.
10:38: Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia next up for questions.
10:36: "In terms of the policy, change is coming," Reed says.
10:35: Amos notes that rigorous Marine Corps recruiting "tends to winnow out" much of the American population.
10:33: Cartwright: "Leadership is going to be the determinative factor" in implementation.
10:32: Casey points out that there's a difference between "thinking someone is gay or lesbian and knowing it." Says that distinction is worth considering when viewing survey results.
10:30: Sen. Jack Reed next up to ask questions.
10:23: Inhofe brings up the opinion -- voiced most strongly by McCain -- that the survey should have included a more direct question about whether or not the policy should be repealed. Both Casey and Amos side with Gates, that a "referendum" would not have made sense.
Casey: "I believe the way the survey was executed gave us sufficient information to make our judgment.'
Amos: "I don't think we needed a referendum-type question on it."
But Amos attributes the under-30% response rate to "a sense of inevitability" about the results.
10:20: Next up: Sen. Inhofe. He cites data that a sizable portion of combat forces say they would consider leaving the force earlier than planned if the ban is repealed.
Casey notes that those numbers are probably overstated. Amos agrees.
10:17: Lieberman asks whether each of the chiefs has felt comfortable speaking openly about his views with Gates. They say that they have.
10:16: Lieberman notes that the six witnesses appear to agree that the law will and should eventually be repealed, but the question at hand is whether that should be done immediately or later, at a time when the nation is not as heavily engaged in combat.
10:14: Amos says his "suspicions are that the law will be repealed" but "I just ask for the opportunity to do that with with my forces when they're not singularly focused on combat."
"This is serious business for them."
10:11: Lieberman next up.
10:10: McCain just voiced agreement with Casey and Schwartz that the policy should eventually be changed. Just not now.
10:09: McCain asks the same of Schwartz. The Air Force chief responds that it would not "be prudent" at this time to change the law but that it should eventually be repealed.
10:07: Casey responds to McCain's direct question about his views on repeal : "I believe that the law should be repealed eventually."
"I would not recommend going forward at this time given what the Army has on its plate," he said.
10:06: McCain now up for questions. He says he wants to hear what the theater commanders have to say on this issue as well.
10:04: Amos's last response addresses the same question posed by Gates yesterday. But Gates was pessimistic that such a less combative time would be coming to the nation's military anytime soon.
“If not now, when? When we’re out of Afghanistan?” Gates asked yesterday. “I don’t see the world getting to be a safer, easier place to live in, where our troops are necessarily under less stress.”
10:02: Amos says he has thought about the question of "if not now, when?" He says he would prefer implementation during "a time when our Marines are no longer focused on combat."
"My recommendation would be that it begins when our singular focus is not on combat operations," Amos said. At that time, he said, he would be comfortable with repeal.
10:01: Casey just reiterated the point below but said that he "worries about the implications" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
9:58: The service chiefs may disagree on whether or not the ban should be repealed, but one thing they agree on: If Congress acts, their leaders are capable of implementing the ban and their forces are disciplined enough to carry out the law.
9:52: Levin asks each member if they have consulted allies in other countries about integration in their own forces. Casey said that commanders of other countries' military forces said that implementation of gay and lesbian integration went smoothly and that it should be done as simply as possible.
Roughead notes that in other countries, "there was broad national consensus before the law was repealed." But repeak was exceptionally smooth in those countries, he said. It was "a non-event," he reports.
9:48: Cartwright quotes the same anecdote from the report mentioned by Sen. Collins of Maine yesterday.
"As one special operations force warfighter told us, “We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."
9:47: On to questions. There will be 7 minute rounds.
9:43: Adm. Robert Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, signaled that he believes repeal would "remove a significant barrier" to Guardsmen already serving, who should not have to "compromise our core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty."
But he warns that implementation "will not be achieved without encountering significant challenges along the course ahead."
9:39: Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz: "It is difficult for me ... to recommend placing any additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particularly challenging time."
He recommends a deferral of implementation of any changes until 2012.
But he also echoes Gates's point that legislative action is "far more preferable to a decision by the courts."
9:36: Amos emphasizes that Marines would faithfully support the law if Congress changes it. He says the military is capable of implementing repeal.
But, he concludes: "Based on what I know about the very tough fight on the ground in Afghanistan, the almost singular focus of our combat forces as they train up and deploy into theater, the necessary tightly woven culture of those combat forces that we are asking so much of at this time, and finally the direct feedback from the survey, my recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time."
9:34: Now, Amos. "Of particular concern to me is that roughly 56% of combat arms Marines voiced negative concerns ... What the survey did not identify is the risk to the ranks within the combat arms communities."
"I cannot reconcile, nor turn my back, on the negative perceptions held by our Marines who are most engaged in the hard work of day-to-day operations in Afghanistan."
9:30: Adm. Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, supports repeal. He notes that a "sizeable minority" of Navy members think that repeal would have negative effects -- 24 percent. "I believe these concerns can be effectively mitigated through engaged leadership, effective communication, training and education, and clear and concise standards of conduct. While we will engage all Sailors, regardless of their points of view, it is this minority upon which our leaders should focus."
He concludes by saying: "I assess the risk to readiness, effectiveness, and cohesion of the Navy to be low." He recommends repeal.
9:28: But, Casey adds, the discipline of the force and the seasoning of the military leaders would allow a controlled implementation. "We could could implement repeal with moderate risk to our military effectiveness and long-term health of the force."
9:26: Next, Gen. Casey, the Army Chief of Staff. "Implementation of repeal of DADT in the near term will 1) add another level of stress to an already stretched force; 2) be more difficult in combat arms; and 3) be more difficult for the Army than the report suggests."
9:25: Here's a quick bio of Cartwright, the nation's second highest ranking military officer.
9:22: Gen. Cartwright, first up with an opening statement, offers praise for the Pentagon survey group. He supports repeal.
In his remarks, he echoes the concern of Gates and other Pentagon officials that, without quick legislative action, the courts will overturn the policy first and disrupt an orderly implementation of repeal.
9:20: McCain also took a shot at critics who say that he has cherry-picked favorable information about the existing policy.
Those who say he has not followed through on pledges to listen to the input of a wide variety of military officials are "disregarding the record," he said.
9:14: McCain says he "appreciated hearing from" Mullen and Gates yesterday and that their views "deserve serious consideration."
But he adds of the service chiefs, "it's their responsibility to recruit and retain the best personnel possible" for their military branches. They must make sure their units are "ready and able to win the nation's wars," McCain says, so the views of the service chiefs are "especially relevant to the current debate."
9:10: Levin disagrees with McCain that the service chiefs' input should be considered with greater weight than that of Gates and Mullen. Here's what he said earlier this week to NBC:
At the end of the day, the decision, in terms of any military decisions, are usually left to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs after consultation with the [service] chiefs.
9:07: Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, tells the chiefs in his opening statement that the committee "wants to hear from each of you whether you are satisfied by [the assurances] of the Secretary of Defense" that he would not certify a repeal of the ban unless risks are eliminated to every possible extent. "And we want to know whether you were adequately consulted by the working group."
9:05: We're about to get underway. The service chiefs are seated and the photographers are snapping their opening shots.
8:54: Some background for today: Data from the newly-released Pentagon report on the subject found that respondents from the Marine Corps voiced the strongest concerns about gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. Yesterday, Gates and Mullen argued that those concerns, while valid, could be addressed by training and exposure; many combat force troops, they said, have simply never worked with open gays and lesbians before.
Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the panel, has dismissed the study's overall findings, saying that the survey of servicemembers failed to directly ask them 'whether' the policy should be changed, only 'how' it should be implemented. He has also largely dismissed the advice of Gates and Mullen, saying that they are less connected with the daily leadership of troops than the service chiefs who will testify today.
8:51: Here's what Amos, the Marine Corps leader, recently said about a potential repeal:
There's risk involved; I'm trying to determine how to measure that risk," Gen. James Amos said. "This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That's what the country pays its Marines to do."
"There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers," he said. "I don't know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion, it's combat effectiveness."
8:40 a.m. ET: Good morning from Dirksen Senate Office Builing. First Read is here for the second day of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy towards gays and lesbians.
Yesterday, senators heard from military officials who are generally supportive of a repeal of the policy -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen -- as well as from the authors of a new report that found little overall risk to the Armed Forces if the ban is repealed.
Today, they will hear from the heads of each service branch. Some, most importantly the Commandant of the Marine Corps, have expressed reservations about the effect that repeal would have on military operations.
The witnesses are: Gen. James E. Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey; Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations; Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz; and Adm. Robert Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard.
The hearing will be underway at 9 a.m. ET, so visit this site for frequent updates about the proceedings.