Washington (CNN) – Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean has penned an open letter to President Obama asking for immediate action on the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.
The letter, released Saturday, expresses concern that the Department of Defense could, "indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy."
President Obama called for a repeal of the policy during his January State of the Union address. But some activists have grown impatient with the review process, a sentiment echoed by Dean.
"While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year," Dean writes.
In February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that laying the groundwork for a repeal of the policy would take more than a year. In the interim, however, the Defense Department was to start enforcing the policy "in a fairer manner," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Congress will ultimately make the decision on whether to repeal the policy, a fact Gates has acknowledged. But Dean calls for immediate legislative action.
"The time to end 'don't ask, don't tell' is now." Dean says. "I urge you to take immediate action to insure that Congress includes the repeal of DADT - with an implementation timeline - in the Defense Authorization bill currently under consideration."
Last week, Gates exchanged letters on the policy with Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Skelton heads the House Armed Services Committee, while Levin heads the sister committee in the Senate.
Dean's concern over a possible "indefinite delay" stems from the letter signed by Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and sent to Skelton.
Dated April 30, the letter requests that Congress not legislate on "don't ask, don't tell" until the military has completed its review.
"I believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change; develop an attentive comprehensive implementation plan, and provide the President and Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective manner," Gates writes.
Released to CNN, Levin's letter asks Gates for clarification on the intent of the Pentagon review now underway.
"Is the purpose of this comprehensive review to determine 'whether' to repeal the statute or is it to assess the issues related to 'how' to implement a repeal of the statute?"
In his response, dated May 6, Gates referrers Levin to his February testimony on the issue, where he said, "The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we…best prepare for it."
In April, President Obama was heckled by demonstrators at a fundraiser for California Sen. Barbara Boxer. The crowd interrupted Obama's speech, asking what he is going to do about "don't ask, don't tell."
Obama responded by saying: "What the young man was talking about was we need to – we need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which I agree with and which we have begun to do."
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, enacted under President Clinton in 1993, bars openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving in the U.S. military, but prevents the military from asking a service member's sexual orientation. It has been a political lightning rod since its implementation.