Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Bob Gates appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and announced that they now support the President's stance on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law - namely, that it should finally be repealed. Secretary Gates reinforced the Pentagon's new position by saying that it is no longer a question of "whether" to repeal the law, but a question of "how" to go about successfully managing the implementation of DADT repeal and the transition to open and honest service. The Secretary also announced the creation of a Pentagon Working Group whose charge will be to thoroughly examine all potential issues that may need to be addressed and to come up with solutions to mitigate any potential disruptions to the smooth operation of the armed forces during and after the transition.
Now that repeal of the DADT law is inevitable, and now that serious preparations are underway to address and mitigate any possible problems that may arise, there should be no reason why Congress should not act now to lock in a set end-date for the DADT law. The key, however, will be doing so in a way that allows the Pentagon to continue its repeal implementation analysis and planning process and which then allows for a brief transition period to ensure ultimate success - in other words, a delayed implementation allowance built into the repeal legislation.
This DADT repeal model is consistent with the goals of those who want to see DADT gone, and it is consistent with the conditions laid out by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. This is also the DADT repeal model that Servicemembers United began proposing in early 2009, and which is now laid out in a new repeal plan that was released publicly today in a document entitled Securing Legislative Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010.
This document re-introduces Servicemembers United's Set End-date / Delayed Implementation (SEDI) repeal plan and makes the case for the adoption of that plan now in light of last week's developments and announcements on DADT. The plan calls for legislative language to be introduced that would sunset DADT at the end of a pre-determined period of time equal to the amount of time that Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen said they would need to undertake their examination and planning process (i.e., nine months to one year). The plan strongly recommends that such language be included in the Chairman's mark of the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Bill, a move that would be encouraged by the inclusion - at the direction of the White House - of similar language in one of the first legislative proposal packages transmitted from the Defense Department to the Armed Services Committees in the near future.
This plan for DADT repeal in 2010 is the most politically viable plan that would achieve the bottom line goals of all involved. It also significantly reduces the political and practical risks associated with waiting until after the Pentagon study process is complete before legislative action is considered. A window exists for guaranteeing a victory - and avoiding a catastrophe - on the DADT issue, and that opportunity must be seized.