Gates leaves certification to Panetta

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a French newspaper Thursday, June 23, that the Pentagon hopes to certify the military is ready to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” “in the last half of July, early August.”

Gates had earlier suggested he might be able to provide the certification himself before he leaves office June 30. But he told Agence France Press (AFP) Thursday that, after meeting with the service chiefs and secretaries “earlier this week…we began what I would call the pre-certification phase of this.”

The bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last December calls for the President, the Defense Secretary, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to submit, in writing, certification that the military is ready to implement repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.

AFP said Gates said, in an interview, that the chiefs of the various military branches would next check with their respective officers to ask “Are we ready to proceed with this? Are you confident that good order and cohesion and discipline will be maintained and content that people have been trained adequately….”

Gates told AFP that the chiefs will report back to the new Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, next month.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group working to repeal the policy, said it was “very disappointed but not entirely surprised” by Gates’ remarks.

“We are seeing an overabundance of caution by the service chiefs coupled with the Pentagon bureaucracy at work,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.”  “It’s hard to explain, much less justify, why this stage of the process is taking more than six months. Hopefully, Secretary Panetta will bring a new sense of urgency and energy and wrap up certification in a timely way.”

After the three officials certify military readiness to implement repeal, there is a requisite 60-day waiting period before the ban is officially lifted.

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