White House backs amendment to 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal legislation

[JURIST] The Obama administration on Monday backed a proposal that would prevent a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy [10 USC s. 654; JURIST news archive] from taking effect until the completion of a comprehensive review of the repeal's effects. The amendment to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 [texts, PDF] would prevent the repeal from taking effect until the Department of Defense [official website] completes a review to determine what effects the repeal would have on military effectiveness, soldier retention, and family readiness. In order for the repeal to take effect after the review's completion, 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. In the letter [text, PDF] sent to the chief sponsors of the legislation expressing the administration's support of the amended legislation, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag [official profile] said:

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. The proposed amendment will ... ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. [S]uch an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] had initially urged Congress to delay repealing the ban until the completion of the review, but has backed the amended repeal legislation [POLITICO report]. A CNN poll [results, PDF] released Tuesday found that 78 percent of American adults believe that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military. A vote on the proposed legislation is expected as early as this week.

In March, Gates announced changes to the enforcement [JURIST report] of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy to make it more difficult to expel openly gay service members from the military. Also in March, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 to the Senate [official websites]. 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. In January, legal advisers for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen [official profile], suggested that he delay any internal efforts [JURIST report] to repeal the policy until 2011.

 

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