We don’t care if the SecArmy is a man or woman, gay or straight, black or white or anything else. The Army hasn’t cared about people being gay for at least ten years, at least not at the operational level. Many of us, including me, never cared about that at all.Though I am only the Chair of the Caucus's Social Committee, I would like to add my own couple of points.
But what we do care about is effectiveness. What is Mr. Fanning’s experience? Was he ever in the Army himself? Does he bring a depth of expertise in budgets, or personnel management? Has he run a large corporation? Does he have solid political connections that will make his job easier, and his tenure as Secretary more effective? Do any of those things matter, or should we just care about the fact that he is gay?
As it turns out, Mr. Fanning is, in fact, highly qualified for this position. He never served in the military or ran a Fortune 500 company, but he has extensive experience in policy, planning, and budget dating back to at least the 1990s. He is a trusted Beltway insider, who ran the transition team for the current SecDef, Ashton Carter and was deeply involved in the daily workings of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Fanning also personally served as Under Secretary of the Air Force and as acting Secretary of the Air Force.
Those are some pretty serious creds, but in most news stories about him (and even on his Wikipedia page) those accomplishments and qualifications are buried under the fact that he gay. Mr. Fanning’s sexuality should be a footnote, if it’s mentioned at all. It shouldn’t be the lede. Appointing a gay service secretary should be a non-issue; “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed years ago, and in any case, civilian employees weren’t subject to the ban in the first place. So why is this even news?
By focusing on his sexual orientation rather than his accomplishments, the administration and the media is doing Mr. Fanning a great disservice. By trumpeting the fact that he is gay, and ONLY the fact that he is gay, media outlets are going to help foster the demonstrably false sense that he isn’t qualified for the job, and that his appointment as Secretary of the Army is simply another sacrifice laid at the altar of political correctness and identity politics. There is no way that is helpful… at least not to the actual business of running the Army.
We’re with you, Secretary-to-be Fanning. We don’t care that you’re gay. Please don’t let that aspect of you be the thing that defines you as our Secretary. In this period of low morale, uncertainty, divisiveness, and perpetual warfare, we need someone who can unite us. We need strong, effective leadership, and an advocate for the issues that affect ALL of us; we don’t need the distraction of more identity politics. Are you up to that challenge?
The last week since the announcement has brought out the worst of both sides, dominated by the extremes. Those who lost the DADT argument have reverted to the Lost Cause arguments that were spotty at best, and puts their efforts on par with those who desire a revival of the Mexican monarchy.
Even worse are many of those in my former camp during the DADT wars who have turned an honorable movement in to just another crass sociopolitical cudgel. Not content with victory, they prowl the forests for imagined dissenters and splitters, and ransack people's personal belongings looking for anything not in line with Party doctrine - behaving intellectually in line with Khmer Rouge commissars.
Everyone sit down and let Mr. Fanning get to work.