Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered the strongest endorsement of the Pentagon’s Working Group study of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this afternoon, warning opponents of repeal that if they “choose not to act legislatively,” they are “rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the Courts.” “It is only a matter of time before the federal courts are drawn once more into the fray, with the very real possibility that this change would be imposed immediately by judicial fiat –- by far the most disruptive and damaging scenario I can imagine, and the one most hazardous to military morale, readiness and battlefield performance,” he said, urging Congress to “pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year.”
Towards the end of the press conference, Gates even expanded on his personal support for repeal, insisting that the ban was inconsistent with military values:
GATES: One of the things that is most important to me is personal integrity. And a policy and a law that in effect requires people to lie gives me a problem. We spend a lot of time in the military talking about integrity and honor and values. Telling the truth is a pretty important value in that scale. It’s a very important value and so for me…A policy that requires people to lie about themselves somehow seems to me fundamentally flawed.
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Responding to a question from The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, Gates also pushed back against Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) argument that the report did not go far enough in studying the report’s effect on military readiness and effectiveness, saying that McCain “is mistaken.” “This report does provide a sound basis for making decisions on this law,” he said, adding “it’s hard for me to imagine that you can come up with a more comprehensive approach.
Of course many DADT repeal advocates, myself included, have criticized Gates for dragging his feet on repeal and delaying the release of the study until the final days of the Congressional session. And while those criticisms are probably still valid — Gates seemed like a reluctant actor in the DADT drama and he may still wish to slow-walk implementation — it’s fairly obvious that the report’s positive findings and the courts’ recent rulings have moved him to action. Let’s just hope that moderate Democrats and Republicans — particularly those who said they would wait for the release of the report before reaching a decision — heed his advice.