IRVING — A former Pentagon official who pushed for the repeal of the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has been named the next president of the Boy Scouts of America.
Robert Gates served as the Secretary of Defense under then-President George W. Bush beginning in 2006 and stayed on board for part of Barack Obama’s first term. Prior to his appointment, he served 26 years in the CIA–his latter years as Director of Central Intelligence.
During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, Gates advocated for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell–which barred open homosexuality in the military–and expressed his agreement with Obama’s push to do away with the law.
“I fully support the president’s decision,” he told reporters in 2010. “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we … best prepare for it. We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly.”
He testified about the matter before a Senate panel in February of that same year, and the Department of Defense issued a news release that both he and Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would express their support for the repeal.
“A strong majority of [soldiers] who answered [a government] survey—more than two thirds—do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform,” Gates said in the release. “The findings suggest that for large segments of the military—with the exception of some combat specialties—the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, though potentially disruptive in the short term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.”
On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced the appointment of Gates as the organization’s next president. Gates, an Eagle Scout, will still need to be approved by the national council.
“There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America,” he remarked in a written statement. “As an Eagle Scout, I know firsthand how impactful this program can be, and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before.”
“I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today—an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today’s youth,” Gates continued.
BSA Chief Wayne Brock likewise released comments surrounding Gates’ appointment.
“Our country and its young people need Scouting, and Boy Scouts of America is honored to have Dr. Gates serve on our National Executive Board as the national president-elect,” he said. “I believe Dr. Gates’ vision and passion for Scouting will continue to allow the BSA to focus on delivering the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training to the young people of this nation.”
As previously reported, this past May, BSA voted to alter its 22-year-old policy, which bans “open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” A number of churches nationwide have discontinued their association with BSA because of the decision.
“It is extremely sad,” stated Pastor Ernest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. “I’d never dreamed that I’d be standing in front of a group preaching on Sunday, encouraging parents to pull kids out of Boy Scouts of America.”
“If we’re a church that affirms God’s word as the inerrant word of God that we’re going to live by, that we’re going to raise our families by, that we’re going to do church by, then it may be sad, but it’s a simple decision,” he continued. “We are not going to put our arms around organizations that openly oppose the moral guidelines taught in God’s word.”
Gates, if ultimately approved, will begin serving in May 2014. He currently serves as chancellor of College of William and Mary in Virginia.