Yesterday, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated that the Pentagon’s study of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will examine how not whether to repeal the policy and cautioned that President Obama is willing to veto the Defense Authorization bill, despite the repeal provision:
GATES: Our review is about how to implement this and what are the obstacles, what are the problems, what are the challenges, what are the issues. How do we mitigate the negative consequences if we identify negative consequences? What are the questions we have to address? Those are the things this review is all about. And I feel it’s very important for the military to have the opportunity to weigh in, to register their views on these issues, and to give us help on how to do this smart should the legislation pass. [...]
WALLACE: So you think that they veto the bill even with repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell?”
GATES: I think so.
With McCain’s veto threat now gone, the only remaining obstacle to securing the process of repeal is the continued funding for the C-17 cargo plane and the F-35 second engine right, which are part of the House legislation, and potential poison-pill amendments during floor debate in the Senate. Actual repeal of the policy won’t occur until sometime next year and even that seems fraught with uncertainty. As Lez Get Real points out, “while Gates is telling the media circuit they are looking at the ‘how‘ of repeal, that is not matching up with all of his statements, nor the theme of the survey itself. Reliable sources indicate the tenor of the survey deals with the impact of repeal on the rank and file rather than how to best implement repeal.”
Moreover, if “the President has made his decision,” why did Gates initially resist repeal legislation that accommodated the study? After all, if his goal is to minimize uncertainty or anxiety within the ranks, why wouldn’t he support the most certain and least cumbersome legislative maneuver — one that triggers repeal only after the Pentagon has examined the policy. Insisting on finishing a study that lays a groundwork for repealing the ban and then rolling the dice in January with a new Congress less supportive of ending the ban, would have put the policy, the military, and its service members in a state of flux.
Anyway, what’s done is done, but I would venture that Gates’ triangulation on the issue would do more to confuse the troops about openly gay members than any “swift” repeal. The Senate is expected to take-up the defense measure, with the delayed repeal provision, in the coming weeks and hopes to pass the bill before leaving for the July 4th recess.