January 7, 2011

Gates Calls for Accelerated Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Defense Secretary Echoes President Obama’s Pledge of Swift Transition

Santa Barbara, Ca.  – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called on the armed forces to accelerate the pace of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, according to Stars and Stripes. On Thursday, Secretary Gates outlined a multi-step plan including regulatory and benefits reform, preparation of training materials, and then training itself. According to Gates, the armed forces are “trying to get the first two phases of that process done as quickly as possible.”

With regard to training, Secretary Gates said: “The real challenge is providing training to 2.2 million people.” He added: “We will do that as expeditiously as we can.” When President Obama signed legislation authorizing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” last month, he said that the transition would take place “swiftly and efficiently.”

Secretary Gates’ support for implementing repeal quickly is consistent with existing research which finds that swift implementation is key to avoiding disruptions once a decision is made to repeal a gay ban. A 1993 RAND Corporation report on gays in the military recommends that leaders, “Act quickly: Lessons from the implementation literature suggest that the new policy regarding homosexuals in the military should be decided upon and implemented as quickly as possible.”

A recent Palm Center study outlines tools such as on-demand, computer-based learning that the Pentagon uses to train troops including those in deployed settings. The study found that in most cases, Pentagon leaders train service members concurrently with the implementation of new policy, and do not wait until training is complete to institute a change in rules. Approximately ten percent of military personnel currently are deployed in Middle East combat zones.

Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center, added: “The existing research is clear and consistent about how to minimize any confusion resulting from the end of a gay ban: implement the decision quickly and clearly. President Obama’s call for a swift repeal process, and Secretary Gates’ vision of expeditious training are the signs of real leadership, and are important steps in the right direction.”