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GALLAGHER OPENING STATEMENT AT HEARING ON SERVICEMEMBERS’ REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND READINESS

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on servicemembers’ reproductive health and readiness.

Rep. Gallagher’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.  I also want to thank our two panels of witnesses for being with us today. 

The mission of the Department of Defense is… “to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.” This critical mission is enabled by the readiness of the Armed Forces, which is the “the ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions.” And the glue that binds mission and readiness together is good order and discipline. As George Washington once wrote, “Discipline is the soul of an Army. —It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” 

I started with mission, readiness and the need for good order and discipline because our military is predicated on men and women following orders and going in harm’s way when necessary..

The Department of Defense and the Services should not consider a state’s laws when making decisions regarding service-member assignments. Nor should service-members be empowered to make assignment decisions based on whether they agree with a state’s laws.

 

I believe that every human life has innate value…. but that shouldn’t make any difference in the orders I am given. Similarly, I should not be able to tell my chain-of-command where to send me based on whether I agree or disagree with a state’s laws.

With regard to the Supreme Court’s   decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its direct effect on the Department of Defense, there was no change to the federal law that covers medical services available to service-members. Nor do I believe any such change is necessary.

We cannot both maintain a functioning military and allow individuals to choose, as some in Congress have suggested, what installation or assignment they can receive on the basis of a bureaucrat’s perception of state law.

This very issue was debated during our full committee mark up and one of our majority counterparts joined us on that vote. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 18-8, a strong bipartisan vote, to prohibit the Pentagon from using the “agreement or disagreement of a member of the Armed Forces with the State laws and regulations applicable to any duty station when determining the duty assignment of the member.”

Following the mark up, Senator Sullivan (R-AK), the amendment’s sponsor, stated, “Allowing our service members to veto the needs of the service because they disagree with state or local laws could lead to a sorting of the military along ideological lines that would devastate readiness, unit cohesion, and the American people’s respect for their military.”  Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who voted for the amendment, said that while family considerations are important in assignment decisions, “ultimately military personnel officials make the decision best for the defense mission. That is as it should be.” Senator Sullivan and Senator Kaine are right.. 

The bottom line here is that allowing state law to become a factor when making personnel assignments is a very dangerous proposition that risks the politicization of the military.  An apolitical professional military is the hallmark of our American democracy.

For our hearing today… I’d like to understand how the Department of Defense will implement the June 28, 2022, Policy Memorandum from Secretary Austin on “Ensuring Access to Essential Women’s Health Care Services for Service Members Dependents, Beneficiaries, and Department of Defense Civilian Employees.” 

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