The former defense chief who served under President George W. Bush has endorsed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and said open service in the U.S. military is “an idea whose time has come.”
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who also headed the Pentagon under President Ford, made remarks in favor of ending the military’s gay ban to ABC Radio on Friday.
“First of all, we know that gays and lesbians have been serving in the military for decades with honorable service,” Rumsfeld said. “We know that [repeal of a ban on gays serving openly] is an idea whose time has come.”
Rumsfeld has been making media appearances and spoke on Thursday at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. to promote his new book, “Known and Unknown.” CPAC organizers gave Rumsfeld gave the “Defender of the Constitution” award for leadership at the Pentagon.
According to ABC Radio, Rumsfeld said Congress expressed the will of the American people by passing the repeal law late last year. Still, Rumsfeld said he has “enormous respect” for the military leaders who have expressed concern about ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and urged the Pentagon leaders to implement the new law “with care.”
Rumsfeld endorsement of open service in the U.S. military makes him the third defense secretary to support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary William Cohen, who headed the Pentagon under President Clinton, have also called for an end to the law.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said Rumsfeld’s endorsement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal shows support for ending the law is “unambiguous and transcends party lines.”
“We have now entered the next phase of the repeal process in which certification and implementation should be completed swiftly in keeping with the practices that have been proven to minimize any disruption to the military,” Belkin added.
On Dec. 22, President Obama signed the law allowing for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, but the measure won’t take effect until the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready. Additionally, after certification takes place, an additional 60-day waiting period must pass before gays can serve openly in the military.