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Statement on Don't Ask Don't Tell Legislation

Message by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, DC, Friday, May 28, 2010

As you may know, earlier this week Congress began legislative action to change the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexuality in the armed services.  Given the complicated political debate surrounding this issue, I thought it important for you to hear what this means for you, the men and women wearing our nation's uniform.

First, the legislative process is long and complex.  While it appears likely that Congress will eventually change the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, we do not expect the legislation that would do this to be presented to the President for months -- perhaps not until the end of the year.

Second, the legislation involved is a deferred repeal.  In other words, it would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” but only AFTER, I repeat AFTER, the ongoing Department of Defense high level review is completed and only after the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and I all can certify that we are ready to make this change without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness and recruiting and retention.

Third, while this process plays out over time, nothing will change in terms of our current policies and practices.  Current law, policies and regulations remain in place and we are obligated to abide by them as before.

Fourth, the Department of Defense review on this issue that I initiated earlier this year will continue as before and is more important than ever.  This review is charged with conducting the first thorough and fact-based assessment of the impact of this policy change and developing an implementation plan that minimizes any possible disruption to the Department’s mission and ongoing operations.

Every man and woman in uniform is a vitally important part of this review.  We need to hear from you -- and your families -- so that we can make these judgments in the most informed and effective manner.  So please let us know how to do this right.

I urge you to stay informed on this process, but do not let the on-going political debate distract you from what is important – our critical mission to defend our country and our duty to uphold the values represented by the uniform you wear.

Thank you for serving and thank you for listening.

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