Robert Gates: Repeal Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Will Come In Late July, Early August

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said today that “a formal end to the ban on gays serving openly in the US military will likely come by late July or early August” and would be “left for his successor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, who is due to take over from Gates on July 1.” Under the repeal legislation passed last year, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell cannot be repealed until 60 days after President Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff certify that lifting the ban would not undermine military readiness or unit cohesion.

With the force scheduled to complete DADT training in the coming weeks, Gates recently met with the service chiefs to begin “the pre-certification phase of this”:

The chiefs, Gates said, will be asking “are we ready to proceed with this, are you confident that good order and cohesion and discipline will be maintained, and content that people have been trained adequately and so on.”

Based on that exercise, the chiefs will then deliver their conclusions to the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Obama, he said.

Gates said he sought to start preparations in his final weeks in office to ensure the issue could be taken up by his successor next month without any delays.

“I wanted to get this started because when Mr Panetta comes in he’s obviously going to have a lot of things on his plate. “And I was concerned that if I didn’t get this started it might be delayed several weeks until he was able to get to it and inform himself about it.”

He added: “I think our hope would be that we would be in a position, and I underscore the word hope, to provide the certification sometime in the last half of July, early August.”

Republicans in the House have sought to delay implementation of repeal and successfully attached an amendment to the Defense Authorization legislation that would expand the certification process to include the service chiefs. A similar amendment was not included in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill.

Last week, a group of 23 House Republicans wrote Obama asking him to hold off on certification “until Congress can review the Defense Department’s policy changes that would lead to open service.” “Given the necessity for congressional review, which has been limited to this point, we respectfully request that you refrain from transmitting certification until Congress has had sufficient time to review pending legislative matters of policy and law,” the letter said.