At a press availability en route to Melbourne, Australia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that he would like Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the lame duck session but was “not sure what the prospects for that are”:
Q: (Laughs.) Yes, exactly, ours, [inaudible] one in Australia, too, but — yeah, U.S. election outcome. In the short run, do you see any prospect for passage of START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the lame duck? And then going forward into the spring, do you think the election outcome makes it more or less likely that President Obama will decide to pull a significant number of forces from Afghanistan in the summer?
SECRETARY GATES: Well, first of all, I hope that the Congress will — that the Senate will ratify a new START. I think it’s in our interest. Both the chairman and I have testified why we think it’s in our security interest to ratify the treaty.
I would like to see the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are and we’ll just have to see.
The statements mark the first time Gates publicly endorsed efforts to end the policy before the new Republican House is sworn-in in January, something Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell avoided during his press conference on Thursday. Morrell insisted that Gates wanted “a study to take place in advance of that repeal to educate us how to deal” with repeal. “You know from his discussion of this dating back to last February that [the Secretary] believes that it’s better to do this smart than stupid and that this report is very important to us doing this smartly,” Morell said.
The Wonk Room has more.