Once Again, Gates Will Press Senate on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been an outspoken supporter of ending the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. He'll return to Capitol Hill at least once more before the end of the year to make his case again.

With the Pentagon's internal policy review due to President Obama's desk next Wednesday, Gates will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to discuss the findings.

The review is expected to find negligible risk to U.S. soldiers and war efforts in ending the policy; that much was leaked to The Washington Post two weeks ago. Gates, who has told senators before that it's time for the policy to end, will get to make his case once more.

He'll be accompanied by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and the two co-chairs of the Pentagon's DADT review working group, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham and Defense Dept. General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson.

The Chiefs of Staff of all four service branches, plus Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, will appear before the Armed Services Committee the following day.

The prospects of ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 2010 are somewhat dubious. Its fate is tangled up with the Defense authorization bill that's already been passed by the House with a DADT repeal included. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced a rushed vote on the Defense bill (including DADT repeal) shortly before the midterms; it failed amid GOP complaints that senators weren't allowed debate on amendments other than DADT.

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And there's the rub: Passing a Defense bill can take weeks on end. Senators will want to debate a range of amendments, including DADT, and there simply isn't enough time to debate all of them. Republicans would have to agree to attenuated debate, and there doesn't appear to be a gigantic incentive for them to do so; add in the fact that House and Senate negotiators would then have to merge the two non-identical Defense bills, then both chambers would have to vote on them again, and you've got a tricky timeline for repealing the policy.

On Jan. 3, the new Congress will convene, and Republicans will take the House majority, along with six Senate seats, complicating DADT's fate anew.