US Joint Chiefs chair urges 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal delay pending review

[JURIST] Chairman of the US military Joint Chiefs of Staff [official website] Admiral Mike Mullen [official profile] on Sunday urged Congress to delay passing a legislative amendment [press release] to repeal the military's controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] until a review of the legislation is completed by the Pentagon. Mullen stated that the review was of "vital importance" in order for the policy to be properly implemented. The review was set to be completed by the end of this year but the amendment has been moving quickly through Congress, with the full House and a Senate committee voting this week to repeal the former law. In an interview with CNN [transcript], Mullen said that he supports the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" but asks Congress to respect the military's effort to understand the points of view of the troops and families affected by the legislation. The admiral claimed that although repeal is inevitable the completion of the review is necessary to prepare for implementation challenges such as "readiness, unit cohesion, [and] recruiting retention." Mullen stated that the "congressional clock" is often hard to predict, but "[the Pentagon] will complete th[e] review and certainly incorporate what we learned from that into implementation when that time comes." Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] had also initially urged Congress to delay repealing the ban until the completion of the review, but has since backed the amended repeal legislation [POLITICO report].

Last week the US House of Representatives [official website] voted to approve a spending bill containing the amendment to repeal the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy [JURIST report]. The amendment [text, PDF] would prevent the repeal from taking effect until the completion of the Pentagon's review. In order for the repeal to take effect, the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must sign and transmit to congressional defense committees a certification stating that the review has been considered and the recommended policy changes have been implemented. The compromise repeal provision was also approved last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website]. The repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy has been an important issue for President Barack Obama since he took office, and its inclusion in the State of Union Address [JURIST report] reaffirmed it as a top priority for the administration.

 

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