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Robert Gates Backs Compromise on Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

5 years ago
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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates gave a lukewarm endorsement Tuesday to a compromise that is expected to clear the way for separate votes in the House and Senate later this week on legislation repealing the "Don't ask, don't tell" restriction on gays serving openly in the military.

The compromise amendment, if approved, would give the go-ahead for repeal but would delay any effective change in the system until the Defense Department completes a review of how the new policy would be carried out and what impact it would have on troops. The Pentagon wanted Congress to hold off on passage of the bill until its study is finished.

"Secretary Gates continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law," Defense spokesman Geoff Morell said in a statement. "With Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."

Obama administration Budget Director Peter Orszag said Monday the Pentagon would still be able to complete a review to "ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention." The study is to be submitted to Congress by Dec. 1.

Under the existing policy, begun under the Clinton administration, gay men and lesbians are allowed to serve in the armed forces, provided they keep their sexual orientation private. As part of the deal, commanders are supposed to refrain from inquiring -- don't ask -- about service members' sexual preferences.

The House could take up a defense spending bill incorporating the amendment as early as Thursday -- and a vote on similar legislation could occur the same day in the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to the Washington Post.

Substantial Republican opposition -- including that of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will have to be overcome before the plan can be sent to President Obama, who would have to certify that the change would not hurt the nation's military readiness. Concern remain over how allowing gays to serve openly would affect the unit cohesion of troops in the field.

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