The White House responded this evening to questions about if and how the planned June 30 resignation date of Defense Secretary Robert Gates would impact the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, with White House spokesman Shin Inouye telling Metro Weekly, "The DADT repeal act was signed into law by the President, and certification and implementation will happen whomever serves as Secretary of Defense."
The president is expected to announce his intention on Thursday, April 28, to nominate Leon Panetta, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to serve as Gates's replacement.
The announcement raises the likelihood that, as repeal advocates had expressed concern, Gates's resignation will come before repeal is finalized as set out in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act.
Of the requirement that the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president must certify that the changes needed to implement repeal are "consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces," Inouye added, "The President has been in close contact with the Pentagon to ensure that certification occurs as soon as possible, consistent with the standards set forth in the bill."
Although neither the White House nor the Pentagon would answer whether either entity was planning for certification to fall to Panetta, Inouye did note, "We appreciate the service of Secretary Gates, and his leadership in achieving the passage of the Repeal Act, and for moving the certification process forward."
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Eileen Lainez, declined to speculate about questions regarding "future retirement and confirmation," although she did expand on the specific steps that remain in the Pentagon’s ongoing implementation of the DADT Repeal Act, telling Metro Weekly tonight, "Repeal implementation continues to progress."
Referring to earlier congressional testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Lainez noted, "As discussed in April 1, 2011 testimony to the HASC Military Personnel Subcommittee, the department is looking at midsummer to go towards certification."
Describing that process, she wrote, "The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will certify to the President after careful consideration of the views of the Secretaries of the Military Departments and the Military Service Chiefs and the Combatant Commanders."
Repeating the language contained in the statute, Lainez also wrote, "They will certify when they are satisfied that conditions for implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the Department are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces."
Per the statute, a 60-day congressional review period will follow the certification before the 1993 law is taken off the books and open gay, lesbian and bisexual service is allowed in the military.
Obama is expected to announce Panetta’s nomination – as well as the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to replace Panetta at the CIA – at an afternoon news conference in the Rose Garden on Thursday, April 28.
[Photo: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, second from left, testifies before the Senate on Dec. 2, 2010, regarding the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. (Photo by Ward Morrison/Metro Weekly.)]