WASHINGTON (RNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that Congress should take up the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" - and should do it soon - in order to mitigate the effects of a repeal should the courts strike down the law first.
Based on a 10-month survey of active and reserve military personnel, Gates announced that the impact of the repeal would be minimal provided enough time is allowed to adequately prepare all branches of service.
"Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year," Gates said, speaking from the Pentagon.
The survey concluded that a repeal of DADT would be low-risk, only have limited and isolated disruptions to military readiness and that troop division would not be widespread.
Gates said the repeal should be taken up during Congress' current lame duck session, and said he considers the repeal a matter of "urgency." Should the courts require an immediate implementation, however, Gates said the change could negatively impact military morale, readiness and battlefield performance.
The full report was released to the public Tuesday afternoon, concurrently with Gates' news conference. The report includes a survey of 400,000 active and reserve military and 100,000 spouses about their perceived impact of repealing DADT on military readiness.
The Working Group also consulted gays and lesbians who have served in the military, proponents and opponents of repeal and examined military experience around the world.
According to the survey, almost one-third, or 29 percent, of those who received the survey responded, and the overwhelming majority had no problem with the military's readiness should DADT be repealed.
About two-thirds, or 70-76 percent, said repeal would have positive, mixed or no effect on task cohesion and their ability to work together. In terms of social cohesion, or the troop's ability to get along and trust one another, 67-78 percent said the repeal would have a similar effect.
Both Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they consider the study to be comprehensive and conclusive, and rejected opposition by Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, who said that the study was incomplete because it did not determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale.
Gates also made it clear that although troops' opinions were taken into consideration, the survey was not a "referendum" on DADT.
"The very idea of asking the troops to take a vote on the matter is antithetical to our system of government," he said.
Gates said that the men and women of the military would have no choice but to embrace the law.
If repeal occurs, Gates said he would instruct the troops with the following: "If the Congress of the United States of America repeals this law, this is the will of the American people, and you are the American military."
Both Gates and Mullen said that to avoid disruptions over the policy change, the implementation of repeal should be as well-thought out as the 10-month survey the Pentagon conducted.
"It is in that implementation plan that the risk level is mitigated," Mullen said.
Copyright 2010 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.