U. S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has instructed the Defense Department to accelerate efforts to end the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which bans on openly gay military personnel from serving.
At a press conference Thursday, Gates outlined a three-step plan: finalize changes in related regulations and policies, and get clearer definitions on benefits; prepare training materials for chaplains, lawyers, commanders and troops; and then begin to train service members worldwide with the planned “roll-out” out within a “very few weeks.”
“We’re trying to get the first two phases of that process done as quickly as possible,” Gates said, adding he has instructed Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley to accelerate his efforts.
“My hope is that it can be done within a matter of a 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 that as expeditiously as we can.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned gay and lesbian service members to exercise just a bit more patience.
“Now is not the time to come out,” Mullen said, speaking following Secretary Gates. “We certainly are focused on this and we won’t dawdle.”
The U.S. Senate approved a bill on Dec. 18 to repeal the 17-year-old law banning openly gay people from serving in the military. It had passed the House 250 to 175 just three days earlier.
President Barack Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” into law on Dec. 22.