SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — The report of a working group Secretary of Defense Robert Gates created to research the ramifications for the Defense Department if the law banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military is repealed will be released to Congress and the public Tuesday, Defense Department officials announced. Gates formed the working group in February, appointing Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh C. Johnson, DoD’s general counsel, to lead the effort.
“Secretary Gates is pushing all involved in the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s report to have it ready for public release on Tuesday in order to accommodate the desire of the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings as soon as possible,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.
“Frankly, Dec. 1 was already an aggressive deadline by which to complete the report, incorporate the views of service secretaries and chiefs and for the secretary to make a recommendation on the way ahead, but he has further compressed the timeline in order to support Congress’ wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,” Morrell said.
“Now, the secretary has instructed his staff, without cutting any corners, to have everything ready a day sooner because he wants to ensure members of the Armed Services Committee are able to read and consider the complex, lengthy report before holding hearings with its authors and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
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In a roundtable discussion with reporters here, Gates said he wanted the working group’s report to inform the Defense Department about what it would need to do should the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law be changed, and also to inform the legislative process.
The secretary noted that judicial involvement in the law’s status in October, which included a directive to suspend the law immediately, led to the Defense Department having four different policies in place over the course of two weeks. He told reporters that since he first testified to Congress on the subject in February, he has maintained that “having to implement (an end to the law) immediately and without preparation, and without taking the steps to mitigate whatever risks there are, I think, is the worst of all possible outcomes.”
Gates declined to speculate as to whether the current Congress or its successor would take up the issue.
“We’ll see what the reaction to the report is,” he said. But he re-emphasized his belief that the Defense Department should not be forced to react to a sudden end to the law before officials know how to go about it properly.
“All I know is, if this law is going to change, it’s better that it be changed by legislation, rather than have it struck down by the courts with the potential for us having to implement it immediately,” he said.