With the new proposed amendment regarding DADT Repeal, many folks are unhappy because it is Not Enough, Not Soon Enough. However, it’s worth comparing the path forward, since Obama put the country on a course toward repeal, to the timeline for desegregation in the military. From the first initial forward step in September 1945, it took over 8 years. From the executive order signed by Truman, it was 5 years until desegregation was actually finished. I say “finished” meaning 95% of all African Americans serving in integrated units.
The lesson I got from this is that the military will manage itself. Implementing changes to it’s system takes time, whether the constraints are physical ones or “soft” people issues. Perhaps by letting the military study group determine the plan for adopting repeal first, they will be more eager to follow “their own” plan. By contrast, with segregation, Truman acted first with a specific executive order, demanded implementation plans from the military and then fought with them over the details. Obama and others will still have to sign off, but letting the military take ownership is smart management.
While I have listed selected milestones in the process below, there’s much more in the full timeline.
September 1945: Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson appoints a board of three general officers to investigate the Army’s policy with respect to African-Americans and to prepare a new policy that would provide for the efficient use of African-Americans in the Army. This board is called the Gillem Board, after its chairman, General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.
January 1948: President Truman decides to end segregation in the armed forces and the civil service through administrative action (executive order) rather than through legislation
July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also establishes the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.
July 6, 1950: President Truman informs the Fahy Committee that, against the wishes of most of its members, it is being discontinued. "The necessary programs [to integrate the armed forces] having been adopted," Truman wrote the committee, "I feel that the Armed Services should now have an opportunity to work out in detail the procedures which will complete the steps so carefully initiated by the Committee."
October 1953: The Army announces that 95% of African-American soldiers are serving in integrated units..