A key Democratic senator on Saturday said that implementing the repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy against openly gay service members could last into next year.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a senior member of the Armed Services committee, praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen for backing the repeal of the policy and their handling of the repeal process.


"I thought the secretary and chairman were both appropriately supportive of the policy change," Reed said on Bloomberg's "Political Capital," which airs throughout the weekend. "But also recognizing that there has to be not only a decision but also an implementation plan."

Asked if he had any sense how long that process would take, the former Army paratrooper said "I would hope that we're talking about within this year or next year."

Vice President Joe Biden said this week that "By this year's end, we will have eliminated the policy," giving the most clear deadline by which the Obama administration would like Congress to enact a repeal.

But Reed's words shine light on the fact that even if "Don't ask, don't tell" is lifted, the integration of openly gay service members into military units might not happen right away. 

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is openly gay, this week pressured the administration to make sure that gays and lesbians can serve openly as soon as possible. He criticized the Pentagon's year-long review of the policy, saying that it could push off congressional action on "Don't ask, don't tell."

"As quickly as we can do this it will be toward the end of the year," Frank said in a raised voice. "So Gates has plenty of time to study whatever the hell he wants to study."

Republicans oppose lifting the ban because they say it could ruin the camaraderie among soldiers in the field. Some Republicans have also said that now is the wrong time to nix "Don't ask, don't tell" because the military is engaged in two wars.