January 7, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Gates wants quick implementation of ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

Robert Gates and Mike Mullen spoke to reporters about "Don't Ask" on Thursday (Blade photo by Michael Key).

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday told reporters he wants to move quickly with implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and that he hopes the first phases of the process being complete in a “matter of very few weeks.”

During a news conference, the defense secretary said he sees implementation of repeal as a “three-step process.” For the first step, Gates said he wants to make new regulations final and “get clearer definition on benefits.”

The Pentagon report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — published Nov. 30 — states that the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the U.S. military from affording many benefits to the same-sex partners, but other benefits, such as death benefits and hospital visitation access, would still be available.

Gates said the second phase consists of providing training materials to those who would be leading the effort in educating U.S. troops on the new rules, which includes the personnel people, the chaplains, the judge advocate generals.

The third step, he said, involves passing this training along to the 2.2 million service members in the U.S. military.

“We’re trying to get the first two phases of that process done as quickly as possible,” Gates said. ”My hope is that it can be done within a matter of a very few weeks so that we can then move on to what is the real challenge, which is providing training to 2.2 million people.”

Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley has been overseeing the repeal process. Gates said he’s asked the under secretary “to accelerate the first two phases of this process as much as he possibly can” to move on to the third part of training the troops.

During the same news conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen advised gay service members not to come out because “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remains in effect until the he, the president and the defense secretary certify that the U.S. military is ready for open service.

Furthermore, an additional 60-day waiting period for congressional review must pass before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is finally repealed.

“And so now is not — from my perspective, you know, now is not the time to come out, if you will,” the chairman said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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