News (USA)

Gates, Mullen tell Congress they ‘strongly oppose’ repealing DADT this year

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are urging Congress to hold off on repealing the ban on openly gay service members until the Defense Department wraps up its yearlong review of how to implement a change.

Gates (left) and Mullen

In a letter sent Friday to Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Gates and Mullen said they “strongly oppose” repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy this year.

From the letter obtained by ThinkProgress:

“I believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change; develop an attentive comprehensive implementation plan, and provide the President and the Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective matter. […]

Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.”

The White House issued a statement Friday supporting Gates’ position and praising him for having already scaled back the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Last month, Gates announced that the military would change the way the policy is enforced, imposing higher restrictions on who can begin discharge procedures against a servicemember, among other changes.

“The president’s commitment to repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is unequivocal. This is not a question of if, but how,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in the statement.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), a fierce advocate of repealing DADT repeal, issued a statement Friday disagreeing with Mullen and Gates:

“I respectfully disagree with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen. Congress should not sit on their hands,” said Gillibrand.

“Now is the time for Congress to show strong leadership and repeal this disastrous policy. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is wrong for our national security and inconsistent with the moral foundation upon which our country was founded,” she added.

House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) also said in a statement that she looked forward to the review’s report, but that “in the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.”

The 2011 defense authorization bill is about to be considered by Skelton’s committee, and there could be a push to add legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” to that bill.

Read a copy of the letter here.

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