Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said he would support certification of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal before he leaves his position June 30, should top officers of the service branches recommend he do so, the Associated Press reports.
"I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward," Gates said of the DADT repeal training process in an interview with the AP published Monday. "I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training."
DADT repeal advocates have urged the Obama administration to certify DADT repeal prior to Gates's departure. His likely successor, CIA director Leon Panetta, has explicitly stated his support for certifying repeal of the 1993 law, but questions remain as to whether repeal implementation could be delayed as a new secretary assesses whether criteria for certification have been met. An overwhelming majority of Senate Armed Services Committee members indicated that they would approve Panetta's nomination during a Thursday hearing.
Should President Obama, Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certify repeal prior to Gates's departure, open service could be implemented by September.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis issued the following statement on Secretary Gates's remarks in the AP interview:
"SLDN is pleased to see Secretary Gates clearly state that he is prepared to certify 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal before he leaves his post at the end of the month. After nearly six months of preparation and training, we join the Secretary in expressing confidence that the military is, indeed, ready for open service. Hopefully, with the bulk of the training completed in all of the services, the service chiefs are rapidly approaching the point where they can officially recommend to the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Chairman Michael Mullen, Secretary Gates, and to the President that the time has come to make the long anticipated certification. The time to certify 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal is on Secretary Gates' watch."
Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson issued the following statement:
"The Pentagon has been very thorough and deliberate in its training and preparation for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and the time to move forward on repeal has arrived. Senior defense leaders have said all along that the force does not need to be one hundred percent trained before certification can occur. Given that there have been absolutely no major problems with this process, there is no reason that the U.S. military would not be ready for certification and ultimate repeal immediately prior to Secretary Gates' departure."