by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates can accept a proposed congressional amendment overturning the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, but would prefer that lawmakers wait until a Defense Department review to assess its full impact is completed, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said May 25.
"Secretary Gates continues to believe that ideally, the (Defense Department) review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell,' law," Mr. Morrell said. "With Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."
Congress has made clear it won't wait for results of the Defense Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654, due Dec. 1, and expects to put the issue to a vote this week.
Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag expressed the Obama administration's support for the proposed amendment in a May 24 letter to its sponsors.
Even if Congress passes the measure this week, the policy would remain in effect until after the review is completed and the president and military leaders have certified that a policy change wouldn't threaten the military's ability to carry out its missions, defense officials explained.
"The proposed amendment will allow for completion of the comprehensive review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention," Mr. Orszag wrote.
The amendment also will guarantee that the department "has prepared the necessary polices and regulations needed to successfully implement the repeal," he continued.
"Furthermore, such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions," he wrote. "The administration therefore supports the proposed amendment."
Like Secretary Gates, the administration ideally would like to see the DOD review completed before Congress takes any legislative action, Mr. Orszag conceded. But recognizing that Congress has "chosen to move forward now," he said the administration can support the proposed amendment.
Secretary Gates, who supports the law's repeal, announced in February that he had ordered a review to understand the implications of a possible repeal of the 17-year-old law. President Barack Obama has called on Congress to repeal the law.