During a press briefing this afternoon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reiterated his pledge to begin repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “as quickly but as responsibly as possible,” describing implementation as a three-step process that involves changing regulations, prepare training materials, and training the servicemembers. Gates revealed that he tasked Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley to accelerate the first two phases of implementation and said the Pentagon was approaching the task with the philosophy of, it’s better to end the policy “sooner rather than later”:
GATES: We’re trying to get the first two phases of that process done as quickly as possible within a matter of very few weeks so that we can then move on to what is the real challenge, which is providing training to 2.2 million people and we will do this as expeditiously as we can, but to use a term the Chairman has used, there is just a certain element of physics associated with the number of people involved with this process. But we are moving it — and I have asked Undersecretary Stanley to accelerate the first two phases of this process as much as he possibly can so that we can get on with the training process.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen stressed that repeal will not go into effect until 60 days after it is certified by himself, Gates, and President Obama. “Now is not the time to come out, if you will, we’ll get through this, we’ll do it deliberately, we certainly are focused on this and we won’t dolly,” he added.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson yesterday that the Pentagon has “already established a policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military when a California federal court in October issued an injunction that temporarily enjoined enforcement of the law.” “Although they haven’t acknowledged this in public, the replacement regulations have already been written, and so the Pentagon could easily repeal the ban today if there was the political will,” Belkin said. He also acknowledged, however, that the Service Chiefs could slow-down the implementation process.
During Congressional hearings about the Pentagon’s report on repeal in early December, Gates pledged, “until the Service Chiefs are comfortable that the risks to unit cohesion and combat effectiveness of a change have been addressed to their satisfaction and to my satisfaction, I would not sign the certification.”