January 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Gates wants ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal plan by next week

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has directed a top Pentagon official to develop a plan no later than Feb. 4 for implementing open service across the board in the U.S. military.

In a five-page memorandum dated Jan. 28 and obtained by the Blade, Gates tasks Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley with devising a strategy to “facilitate the timely and orderly realization” of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal by next Friday.

Gates emphasizes that open service will be implemented throughout the services at the same time, squelching concerns about whether repeal would happen in the military in a graduated process.

“This is not, however, a change that should be done incrementally,” Gates writes. “The steps leading to certification and the actual repeal must be accomplished across the entire Department at the same time, and consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

President Obama on Dec. 22 signed legislation allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but open service won’t take effect until he, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the U.S. military is ready. After certification takes place, a 60-day waiting period must pass before gays can serve openly without fear of discharge.

Gates’ memo changes the position of the Pentagon on implementing open service from testimony last month from Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In the testimony, Cartwright said implementing open service in a service by service, combat arm by combat arm or unit by unit process was on the table in response to questioning from Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

“As I read the plan as it was recommended by the study, the opportunity is there to structure the implementation phase,” Cartwright said.

The Pentagon made the memo public on Friday prior to a news conference with Stanley. The Washington Blade will have an updated report on any information given at the presser later today.

Download a copy of the Gates memo here.

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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