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.

{mosads}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president’s intent to see this law repealed,” Kirby said.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

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.

Tags Barack Obama Carl Levin

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