By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2011 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday described the Pentagon's three-step process for preparing to allow gays to serve openly in the military services.
At a Pentagon news conference with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gates updated reporters on the department's plan for implementing repeal of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, which has been in effect since 1993 and remains in effect until the process is complete.
"Our goal here is to move as quickly, but as responsibly, as possible," Gates said. "I see this as a three-step process. The first is to finalize changes in regulations [and] policies [and] get clearer definition on benefits."
The second phase is to prepare training materials for use by personnel specialists, chaplains, commanders and other leaders, and those who are in daily contact with service members, he said.
The third phase, the secretary explained, is the actual training for service members.
"We're trying to get the first two phases of that process done as quickly as possible," he said. "My hope is that it can be done within a matter of a very few weeks, so that we can then move on to what is the real challenge, which is providing training to 2.2 million people."
The House of Representatives passed legislation in May that called for the president, defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman to certify the implementation plan before the repeal takes effect. On Nov. 30, Pentagon officials released the report of a working group that reviewed issues associated with a potential repeal. And on Dec. 18, the Senate voted 65-31 for repeal, and President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law Dec. 22.
Gates said Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, is leading the effort.
"I have asked Undersecretary Stanley to accelerate the first two phases of this process as much as he possibly can so that we can get on with the training process," the secretary said.
Mullen said the legislation specifies that the repeal will take effect only after he, Gates and Obama certify that new policies and implementing regulations are consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and retention.
"From my perspective," the chairman said, now is not the time to 'come out,' if you will," noting that even after the required certification takes place, the present law will remain in effect for 60 more days. "We'll get through this. We'll do it deliberately. We certainly are focused on this, and we won't dawdle."
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