The Department of Defense could expedite the release of its internal review of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on sexual preference, according to a source close to discussions of the review.
A Pentagon working group has been studying the potential effects of ending the policy. The final report is due on President Obama's desk December 1. The Washington Post reported Thursday that, according to sources close to the review, it would conclude that ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would carry minimal risk to servicemembers and U.S. war efforts.
Both President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates support ending the policy.
The review is expected to create political cover for lawmakers to do away with Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As Congress comes back for its lame-duck session next week, gay rights activists expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring Don't Ask, Don't Tell up for a vote before the session ends.
At least one key lawmaker, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, has said her vote would depend on the working group's findings.
Timing will be key if the Senate is to vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell before the lame duck session ends. The policy shift is attached to the Defense authorization bill, and, Democrats may need to allow two weeks of debate on GOP amendments to prevent a Republican filibuster and garner enough votes for the bill to pass. Which means that, at the outset of the process as the Defense bill is brought up for a vote, lawmakers won't know for certain what the Pentagon working group has found.
Releasing the report early would improve the prospects of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal in the Senate. According to the source, there is reason to believe the Defense Dept. would do so, seeking to secure the votes of Republicans and Democratic senators sitting on the fence. If the study has been released, senators on the fence will no longer have the "out" of not having seen the report, so the calculus goes.
Secretary Gates has pushed repeatedly for the policy to end.
Defense Dept. spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but I'll update this post if the Pentagon comments on the possibility that the review will be released early.
UPDATE: A Defense Dept. spokesman says there are no plans, of yet, to release the study early.