Defense secretary urges Congress not to repeal 'don't ask don't tell' this year

There was some bad news concerning “don’t ask don’t tell” Friday afternoon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are telling Congress they’re “strongly opposed” to repealing the ban until the Pentagon has completed its review of the repeal’s impact.

Their statements came in an April 30 letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who’d inquired about the potential for a repeal as part of this year’s Defense Authorization Act.

“I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families,” Gates and Mullen wrote in the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Because the Pentagon’s review won’t be completed until December, this means Gates and Mullen don’t want to see DADT repealed until next year. But if Democrats lose seats in November elections, there may not be enough votes to repeal the law in 2011. Some say this timeline would push a DADT repeal back until at least 2013, when the law will turn 20 years old.

While the letter is disappointing, it’s not the first time Gates has gone on record opposing a 2010 repeal of DADT. And the letter doesn’t specifically say whether Gates would support a “delayed implementation” repeal of DADT, which would pass this year but wouldn’t take effect until after the Pentagon review is complete.

The letter comes in advance of a major protest of DADT  planned for Sunday outside the White House.

In response to Gates’ letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday evening called for an immediate moratorium on discharges under DADT.

“We all look forward to the report on the review of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy by the Defense Department. In the meantime, the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted,” Pelosi said in the statement.

After the jump, responses to Gates’ letter from the White House, the Human Rights Campaign and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, as well as the full text of the letter.

—  John Wright