WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates released the guidelines and parameters of a Defense Department review of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law in preparation for its potential repeal, March 2.
The 10-month review should include input from service chiefs and all levels of the force and their families, Gates said in a memo to Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, who was chosen to head the effort along with Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer.
Gates established the review Feb. 2, saying it would be critical to ensuring a smooth transition if the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military is repealed, as President Barack Obama has proposed. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have stated their support for the repeal.
The review also should engage Congress members, Gates said, as well as "key influencers of potential servicemembers and other stakeholder groups." It should also take into account the experiences of foreign militaries, he added.
"To be successful," Gates said in the memo, "we must understand all issues and potential impacts associated with repeal of the law and how to manage implementation in a way that minimizes disruption to a force engaged in combat operations and other demanding military activities around the globe.
"Should Congress take this action," he continued, "strong, engaged and informed leadership will be required at every level to properly and effectively implement a legislative change."
Gates directed that the review should:
-- Determine how repeal of the law would affect military readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, recruiting and retention, and family readiness;
-- Determine leadership, guidance and training on standards of conduct and new training, as well as appropriate changes to policies and regulations, including management, leadership, training and benefits;
-- Recommend appropriate changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
-- Monitor and evaluate congressional proposals related to the repeal;
-- Monitor the work force climate and military effectiveness that support follow-through of a repeal; and,
-- Evaluate issues raised in ongoing litigation related to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Gates said the review is necessary to "minimize disruption and polarization within the ranks, with special attention paid to those serving on the front lines." It is due back to him by Dec. 1.
The review is to include input throughout the department and across services.
"To effectively accomplish this assessment, I believe it essential that the working group systematically engage the force," Gates wrote. "The participation of a range of age, rank and warfare communities in this study including families, in addition to active outreach across the force, is a critical aspect that will undoubtedly lead to insights and recommendations essential to the department's implementation of any change."
Noting the political nature of the law, Gates said it is "critical" that the review be conducted "in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner."
"It is equally critical that in carrying out this review, every effort be made to shield our men and women in uniform and their families from those aspects of this debate," he added.