This is a major change to the current policy, and it makes it more difficult to separate gay Soldiers (as is the intent). Under the previous policy, a Soldier’s immediate commander —the company-level commander— was authorized to initiate an investigation as well as to initiate separation proceedings. The approval authority rested with the brigade commander. Additionally, before a brigade commander could approve the separation of a gay Soldier, a board composed of at least three experienced commissioned, warrant, or noncommissioned officers must hear evidence presented by both sides (the Soldier and the government) and then use that evidence to make a recommendation to the separation authority on whether or not to separate that Soldier. If the board votes to recommend separation, then the brigade commander can then approve the separation or direct retention. If the board votes to retain the Soldier however, the brigade commander must forward the case to the Department of the Army if s/he wishes to separate the Soldier against the board’s recommendation. This was the procedure up until today.
Now, the company commander can no longer initiate an investigation or separation against a Soldier suspected of being gay. The lowest-ranking commander authorized to do this is the first General in the Soldier’s chain of command. This means that a commander who wishes to separate a gay Soldier will need forward a request to this General to conduct an investigation (the first step in starting the separation process) into the suspected homosexual conduct. The General who initiates the separation also will not be able to be the approval authority (no commander who initiates a separation can approve it); this authority will rest with another General higher up the chain of command.
For example: on Fort Huachuca, there are two major commands — NETCOM and USAICoE. NETCOM’s commander is a one-star General, while the Post Commander (a two-star) is also the commander of USAICoE. If a Soldier who belongs to NETCOM is gay, then his company commander will have to request that NETCOM’s commander initiate the separation process… Fort Huachuca’s post commander will then be the approval authority. Any one who has any experience with the military will realize just how much more difficult separating gay Soldiers has now become.
For those who are directly affected by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, this change in policy is a major victory, as they are now more protected from the worry of losing their jobs. They should however not take this as an opportunity to serve openly because it’s still possible to separate them for being gay — it’s merely been made more difficult to do so.