By Kerry Eleveld
Originally published on Advocate.com May 24 2010 7:40 PM ET
A White House official sent a letter Monday evening approving a new legislative compromise that would repeal "don't ask, don't tell" this year but keep the current policy in place until the Pentagon's working group study is completed and the president, secretary of Defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs sign off on implementation.
"The Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," wrote Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The proposal under consideration would legislatively repeal the statute this year, but the current policy would remain in place and implementation of repeal would be contingent on two occurrences: completion of the Pentagon’s review due in December and certification from President Barack Obama, Defense secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention, and other key factors affecting the military.
The language would not include an automatic nondiscrimination policy but rather will return authority of the regulations for open service by gays and lesbians to the Pentagon.
In the letter Orszag wrote that "ideally" the Pentagon's review of implementation would be completed before Congress takes legislative action, but adds, "the Administration understands that Congress has chosen to move forward with legislation now ... "
The letter came in response to a request for White House input from pro-repeal lawmakers who have been working to build support for repeal this year.
Pro-repeal advocates welcomed the announcement immediately.
"We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.
Aubrey Sarvis of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the development a "dramatic breakthrough" that should help produce the votes necessary for repeal measures to be attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill in the House and Senate.
"The path forward crafted by the president, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week," Sarvis said. "President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’s buy-in should ensure a winning vote, but we are not there yet."