Gates, Mullen to testify on 'Don't ask, don't tell'

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen will testify next week on the repeal of a controversial law preventing openly gay people from serving in the military.

The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Thursday that Gates and Mullen will testify Tuesday on repealing the 1993 law, commonly known “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed his commitment to repeal the law, but supporters say the real test will come this spring with the Pentagon budget.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Pentagon is set to unveil its 2011 budget request on Feb. 1, but it’s unclear whether Defense officials will send specific legislative proposals to lawmakers in coming months that will address repealing the law.

“The Department leadership is actively working on an implementation plan and will have more to say about it next week,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

Gates and Mullen also are scheduled to begin testifying on their budget requests Tuesday.

The budget request is customarily coupled with a series of legislative proposals packages that Pentagon leaders send to lawmakers up until the Armed Services panels in the House and Senate start considering the defense authorization bill.

In the State of the Union address, Obama said he would work this year with Congress and the military to repeal the law, but he did not specify a timeframe for getting rid of it.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said in the address.

The statement was encouraging to advocates who support repeal, but left them wanting for details.

“Now it’s about the follow up, it’s about the specifics and it’s about a timeline,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has lobbied for repeal for years.

“It is a fair test of the president’s commitment and convictions if repeal ends up in the DoD authorization bill,” Sarvis added.


Mullen and the chiefs of staff of all the military services are working on their recommendations for the implementation of the repeal, said Capt. John Kirby, Mullen’s spokesman.

“The Joint Chiefs and the Chairman understand perfectly the president’s intent to see this law repealed,” Kirby said. “They take very seriously their obligation to provide him and Secretary Gates the best military advice about both the impact of repeal and its implementation across the force. They look forward to developing their advice and providing their advice in the near future.”

It is Congress that has to write the legislation to repeal the law, but direct support from the administration and military would increase the chances of passage for the defense authorization bill or a stand-alone bill.

A House bill repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has 187 sponsors, 31 votes short of the 218 necessary for safe passage.

In the Senate, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supports repeal but has indicated so far that he would not take any action before the military leaders are able to provide their input.