Obama Certifies Military Ready for ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 — Based on rec­om­men­da­tions from mil­i­tary lead­ers, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has cer­ti­fied to Con­gress that the U.S. armed forces are pre­pared for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

There is a 60-day wait­ing peri­od before the repeal goes into effect, so the law will offi­cial­ly come off the books Sept. 20. After that date, gay ser­vice mem­bers can be open about their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion.

The pres­i­dent signed the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and deliv­ered it to Con­gress today.

Con­gress passed the repeal law in Decem­ber. The leg­is­la­tion gave the mil­i­tary time to pre­pare the force and said repeal would hap­pen only after the pres­i­dent, the defense sec­re­tary and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cer­ti­fied the force as ready for repeal.

The Defense Depart­ment char­tered a repeal imple­men­ta­tion team to coor­di­nate the nec­es­sary changes to pol­i­cy and reg­u­la­tions, and to pro­vide edu­ca­tion and train­ing to ser­vice mem­bers. The team worked to ensure the smoothest pos­si­ble tran­si­tion for the U.S. mil­i­tary to accom­mo­date and imple­ment this impor­tant and nec­es­sary change, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said.

“Today, as a result of strong lead­er­ship and proac­tive edu­ca­tion through­out the force, we can take the next step in this process,” the sec­re­tary said. “The pres­i­dent, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I have cer­ti­fied that the imple­men­ta­tion of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is con­sis­tent with the stan­dards of mil­i­tary readi­ness, mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness, unit cohe­sion and recruit­ing and reten­tion of the armed forces.”

Panet­ta said he believes the repeal is essen­tial to the effec­tive­ness of our all-vol­un­teer force. “All men and women who serve this nation in uni­form – no mat­ter their race, col­or, creed, reli­gion or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion – do so with great dig­ni­ty, brav­ery, and ded­i­ca­tion,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment on cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Panet­ta pledged to sup­port a mil­i­tary free from per­son­al, social or insti­tu­tion­al bar­ri­ers that pre­vent ser­vice mem­bers from ris­ing to the high­est lev­el of respon­si­bil­i­ty that their tal­ents and capa­bil­i­ties war­rant.

“They put their lives on the line for Amer­i­ca, and that’s what real­ly mat­ters,” he said. “Thanks to the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and lead­er­ship of the U.S. mil­i­tary, we are clos­er to achiev­ing the goal that is at the foun­da­tion of Amer­i­ca — equal­i­ty and dig­ni­ty for all.”

The ser­vices put togeth­er train­ing cours­es for the force and more than 1.9 mil­lion ser­vice mem­bers have now received that train­ing. DOD and ser­vice offi­cials also looked at reg­u­la­to­ry and legal changes that repeal entailed.

“I am com­fort­able that we have used the find­ings of the Com­pre­hen­sive Review Work­ing Group to mit­i­gate areas of con­cern, and that we have devel­oped the pol­i­cy and reg­u­la­tions nec­es­sary for imple­men­ta­tion – con­sis­tent with stan­dards of mil­i­tary readi­ness, mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness, unit cohe­sion and recruit­ing and reten­tion,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is not the end of the road. The depart­ment, the ser­vices and the com­bat­ant com­mands must work “to train the remain­der of the joint force, to mon­i­tor our per­for­mance as we do so, and to adjust pol­i­cy where and when need­ed,” Mullen said.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law went into effect in 1993. It allowed gay and les­bian per­son­nel to serve in the mil­i­tary as long as they were not open about their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion.

On Feb. 2, 2010, Mullen tes­ti­fied to that Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that he believed it was time to repeal the law.

“It is my per­son­al belief that allow­ing gays and les­bians to serve open­ly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen told the sen­a­tors. “No mat­ter how I look at the issue, I can­not escape being trou­bled by the fact that we have in place a pol­i­cy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fel­low cit­i­zens. For me, per­son­al­ly, it comes down to integri­ty – theirs as indi­vid­u­als and ours as an insti­tu­tion.”

Mullen said he believes sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines can han­dle the changes.

“My con­fi­dence in our abil­i­ty to accom­plish this work rests pri­mar­i­ly on the fact that our peo­ple are capa­ble, well-led and thor­ough­ly pro­fes­sion­al,” he said in his writ­ten state­ment today. “I have nev­er served with fin­er men and women. They will, I am cer­tain, car­ry out repeal and con­tin­ue to serve this coun­try with the same high stan­dards and dig­ni­ty that have defined the U.S. mil­i­tary through­out our his­to­ry.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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