'Don't ask, don't tell' report expected to be delivered to Gates on Dec. 1

A key report on the implications of repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is on track and expected to be delivered to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Dec. 1, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said on Thursday.

Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have insisted that the study is critical in educating military leaders in advance of the possible repeal of the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

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Reviewing the report will be a priority for Gates, Morrell said at a press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday. However, Morrell declined to telegraph any steps that Gates would take to engage Congress on the repeal issue after he reviews the report.

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, and Army Gen. Carter Ham, the newly appointed head of Africa Command, have been leading the yearlong study.

Gates “believes it's better to do this smart than stupid, and that this report is very important to us doing this smartly,” Morrell said. “So our focus right now is getting this report finished, getting it to the secretary, having him review it, carefully consider it, and then take measures from there.”

President Obama on Wednesday renewed his call for the repeal of the Clinton-era law and urged Congress to act before the end of the year. He indicated that Congress would have time to act after the Pentagon study is finished. Congress must write the legislation to change the 1993 law. However, it is yet unclear whether the Democratic leadership will be able to act by the end of the year.

The pressure is on the Senate to act on the 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains a provision that would repeal the ban after the Pentagon finishes its review of repeal implications and after Obama, Gates and Mullen certify that the repeal can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruitment and retention. The House already passed the 2011 defense authorization bill containing the same provision at the end of May.

Morrell indicated that Gates is primarily focused on the review and not on pressing Congress to act on repeal before the beginning of December. 

“In 26 days' time, the secretary will have the work product that he thinks is so necessary for us to be able to fully understand the full implications of a repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell' and then what additional measures we need to take in preparation for that eventuality,” he said.

Morrell stressed that the Pentagon would like to see both the defense authorization and appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011 passed “as soon as possible.” That fiscal year started on Oct. 1 and the Pentagon is funded through a stopgap measure. Both bills contain critical policies and funding for the U.S. military’s operations around the world.

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