In a background briefing for reporters today, a "senior administration official" at the Pentagon outlined the way the Department of Defense will deal with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discharges in this period of legal and political uncertainty: beginning now, the Service secretaries -- the secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy -- will have to give their "personal approval" before gay soldiers are kicked out. There seems to be a caveat, something that close DoD watchers pointed out to me: the secretaries have this power "in coordination with the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness" and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson. "In coordination" implies that the two other entities will tee up various discharge orders for the approval of the Service secretaries.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund thinks the change "can
be a major constructive development for gay and lesbian service members" depending on the standard the Service secretaries use.
Now, the Service secretaries are political appointees. In theory, they serve at the pleasure of the president. In theory, the president could ask them not to discharge gay soldiers. In theory, these Secretaries are already on board with the idea of a repeal and will reduce to a trickle the number of gays who are discharged.