By Kerry Eleveld
Originally published on Advocate.com August 26 2009 11:30 PM ET
The Department of Defense is still in the process of reviewing ways to relax the implementation of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and has no particular deadline for issuing those findings, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.
“That process is still ongoing. There was not a definite timeline put on that request,” Cynthia Smith said of President Barack Obama’s discussions with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates on easing the policy.
Smith said Defense Department lawyers are reviewing the ban on gays serving openly in the military “to see how we can be more flexible, to see if there's a more humane way to apply the law before the law gets changed.”
Her comments mirror those made by Defense secretary Gates in early July. While traveling abroad, Gates said he and President Obama had discussed a softening of the policy and that he was looking into it with Pentagon lawyers and senior military officials.
"We're talking about how do we move forward on this -- achieve this objective which is changing the policy," Gates told reporters who were traveling with him.
Asked last week whether the administration had received any updates from Gates on that review, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he would check on it. The White House has not provided further information on the inquiry.
Two processes appear to be at play at the Pentagon regarding “don’t ask, don’t tell”: finding a way to ease enforcement of the law and researching how an actual repeal of the law would affect the military and be implemented. Pentagon spokeswoman Smith would only officially confirm that the former was under way.
But President Obama suggested during a CNN interview last month that military officials were already examining how to execute an actual repeal of the policy.
“We’ve got a process to not only work [a bill] through Congress but also to make sure that the Pentagon has thought through all the ramifications of how this would be most effective,” Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
During the same interview Obama outlined his thoughts on what could done before the law is repealed by Congress.
“I do think that there’s the possibility, though, that we change how the law is being enforced even as we’re pursuing a shift in congressional policy.”
As for timelines, Smith’s comments are the first indicating that there is no particular deadline for developing a process to slow the discharges.
In terms of full repeal, Robert Gibbs said during a press briefing in June that repealing the law is “something we can do in this Congress.”
Asked about his sense of urgency on repeal by Anderson Cooper, President Obama said only, “I’d like to see it done sooner rather than later.”