Service chiefs send letters to Congress: Don't repeal "don't ask, don't tell" yet

The Wonk Room has copies. Will it work?

– G. ROUGHEAD, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: “My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.”

– JAMES T. CONWAY, COMMANDANT OF MARINE CORPS: “I encourage Congress to let the process the Secretary of Defense created to run its course. Collectively, we must use logical and pragmatic decisions about the long-term policies of our Armed Forces.”

– NORTON SCHWARTZ, CHIEF OF STAFF (USAF): “I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, and the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the DA/DT law…To do otherwise, in my view, would be presumptive and would reflect an intent to act before all relevant factors are assessed digested and understood.”

– GEORGE CASEY, CHIEF OF STAFF (ARMY): “I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.”

Ben Nelson said this morning that he’ll vote to attach a repeal amendment to the defense appropriations bill, which momentarily gives Carl Levin enough votes to move it out of committee. The letters are aimed at getting Nelson, Susan Collins, Evan Bayh, or any of the other reluctant yeses in the Armed Services group to change their minds or, failing that, to give the GOP and a few red-state Dems political cover to filibuster. (Whether they have the stones to filibuster a defense appropriations bill is another matter.) The Wonk Room argues that the concerns in the letters about acting before the troops have had their say is unfounded since the repeal doesn’t go into effect until Obama, Gates, and Mullen certify that it won’t have an affect on readiness, morale, etc. Which is technically true, but come on: Is The One going to take on his base by letting the Pentagon reinstate DADT after Congress has lifted the ban? There’s a reason repeal proponents want this done now, before a redder Congress is seated next year. Certification is the easy part, especially with Gates and Mullen onboard with repeal and Gates (reluctantly) approving the compromise deal reached this week. Exit question: Will anyone on the committee flip because of this?