How Obama Can Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The White House and military want to roll it back. Here's what they'll need to accomplish.

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The White House has recruited two powerful allies in its mission to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a hearing today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates and Mullen declared their personal belief that DADT should be repealed and called on Congress to do so. Rolling back the policy, which bars gay servicemen and women from openly serving in the military and results in several hundred dismissals annually, will require an act of Congress. The Pentagon will begin work on a report on how to integrate openly gay soldiers, which they say will take a year. Then what?

  • Preview: What Congress Will Fight About The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller parses today's statements from Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Senator John McCain, whose stances may foreshadow the coming Congressional debate. "On one thing, they agreed: many gay men and lesbians are serving honorably and effectively in the military today, despite a policy that has driven thousands of others out of the services. But Mr. Levin said the military should act in this matter as it has in others, as a force against discrimination. And Mr. McCain said the military culture was so different from civilian life that the rules for its members, too, must differ."
  • Why Review Will Take a Year The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains, "For one thing, Gates and Mullen will argue that full integration of gays and lesbians must be pursued carefully, in order to protect the rights of gay soldiers and to make sure that the policy, when finally implemented, is well accepted and seen as legitimate. Civil rights groups are likely to protest the delay, but the White House is on board with the timetable."
  • Congress Could Start Now Mother Jone's Kevin Drum writes that it could be sooner. "[W]e're still on track to firmly end DADT in an amendment to the Pentagon budget this year, but implementation will be left up to Gates and he'll be given until, say, January 2011 to publish new regs." However, it's possible that "Congress won't do anything until the Pentagon review is done, which would mean delaying repeal until 2011 and implementation until 2012."
  • The Case Against an Executive Order Liberal blogger John Cole argues that letting the Pentagon and Congress take charge, even if it takes longer, frames repeal as "not 'if' it will be repealed but 'when.'" He warns Obama against simply issued an executive order, "causing a huge congressional and military backlash with a media narrative about nothing but Obama over-reaching his mandate and the accompanying backlash."
  • Frame It As 'Military vs GOP' National security think-tanker Adam Blickstein suggests Obama exploit the fact that Republicans oppose the repeal but military leaders support it. "GOP spent nearly all of 2009 playing politics with national security, and was pretty consistent in not supporting the men and women of the military: two filibuster attempts on Defense spending bills; attempts to block funding for military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan; and senatorial holds on spending for Veteran's benefits. In 2010, this pattern of the Republican Party vs. the military continues."
  • What You Can Do The Awl's Ana Marie Cox liveblogs the hearing, ending with an appeal to her readers. "Your homework: Write Adm. Mullens a mash note. Call your representatives. Makes a life-sized Jeff Sessions doll and make him tell you where his 'unit cohesion' is. " Sessions is a Republican Senator from Alabama. She adds, "I really appreciate that Mullens and Gates, who both appear to be in favor of repeal, have thought through the EFFECTS of repeal much, much more than the GOPtards, i.e., housing, benefits, promotions, current cases..."
  • The Soldiers Are Ready Veteran paratrooper D.B. Grady writes that troops up and down the ranks would be ready today. "Contrary to naysayers, the United States military is institutionally prepared today - at this very moment - for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He explains that the military's infrastructure and chain of command are perfectly suited to handle the transition. "A key to the military's managerial success is strict adherence to conflict resolution at the lowest level."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.