Is ROTC’s return being decided right now in Washington?

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Senators Collins and Lieberman will introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT. (Wikimedia Commons: Bill Koplitz)
Most students and faculty would agree: the fate of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy could spell the fate of ROTC at Stanford. For this reason, the events occurring in Washington D.C. right now could strongly influence the ROTC debate on campus, if not define it.

In the latest episode on Thursday, a defense bill that would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the military’s policy toward gay and lesbian service-members, failed to garner enough votes in the US Senate to move on with debate and passage of the bill. According to the New York Times, in order to move to the floor for debate the bill required a 60-vote majority in the senate, but it came up 3 votes short of that total, falling down partisan lines.

The vote seemed to take some Republicans by surprise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been negotiating with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CN) for quite a while on possible amendments and procedures for the bill that would lure some Republicans to vote for it. Collins stated, “I’m extremely disappointed that the Senate majority leader walked away from negotiations in which we were engaged and which were going well,” she continued, “I’m sad to say I think the chances are very slim for getting it through.”

Collins believed that with more negotiation time, she and the Democrats could pull enough Republican senators over to get the 60 votes needed to pass the procedural vote, even though the majority of Republicans would still oppose the measure.

A Reid Staffer explained to Greg Sargent that Reid called the procedural vote because he believed that 4 days of debate, what Collins was asking for, would end up being much longer and would extend into January. He thus decided to push through with the vote, knowing that it would probably fail. Perhaps he believed that doing this would shift blame and pressure over to Republicans for causing the first failed defense spending bill in dozens of years.

Collins and Lieberman now plan to introduce a stand-alone bill that would repeal DADT. Reid has indicated he will be a co-sponsor, but the success of the bill is still questionable.

At Stanford, the return of Reserve Officer Training Corps to campus (ROTC) could hinge on the repeal of DADT. The chair of the ad-hoc ROTC Faculty Senate Review Committee told the Review in September:

“I think it’s fair to say that the [committee] believes that there is little chance of ROTC returning if DADT is not repealed…. If DADT is repealed then we have a horserace, so to speak, and I can see a Senate vote going either way.”

Professor William Perry, who suggested that the faculty senate launch an exploration into ROTC, had decided several years ago with President Hennessey that a ROTC return shouldn’t be considered until DADT is overturned. So if congress fails to repeal DADT, will that close the door on ROTC?

Many other issues must be confronted before the senate can consider ROTC’s return (read about some of them here). But arguably, even if these other issues could be solved in a way acceptable to the faculty senate, the atmosphere of the senate seems to indicate that the decision is contingent on DADT’s status.

Thus, faculty and students interested in ROTC on campus should probably watch the next few days in bated breath, because the decision that is supposed to come from the faculty senate in the Spring could just be decided in the US Capitol over the next few days.

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