The Washington Post

Gates open to ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ before leaving

Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a news conference in Afghanistan earlier this month. (OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS)

The policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” will be repealed once President Obama certifies — in consultation with Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen — that the military is ready to lift the ban.

“I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward,” Gates said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday. “I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training.”

Gates told the AP however that it is “unrealistic” to believe that there won’t be issues related to the integration of openly gay service members once the ban ends, noting that women still face persistent problems with sexual assaults years after they entered military service.

Gates is receiving updates every two weeks on the training programs from military service chiefs, who must eventually recommend to him whether repealing the ban would damage the military’s ability to conduct operations.

The issue of gays in the military arose during Monday evening’s New Hampshire Republican presidential debate. Though Ron Paul and Herman Cain said they would not seek to overturn Obama’s decision to end the ban, the other candidates said they would have left the policy in place, at least for now.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said he take cues from the military service chiefs on the issue, noting that some had expressed concerns about lifting the ban. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said he would have left the current policy in place “until conflict is over.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he would seek to reverse Obama’s decision if service chiefs said the change in policy wasn’t working and disrupting military operations. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she agreed with Gingrich’s position, while former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said he would reverse Obama’s decision because the military “is not for social experimentation.”

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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