May 8th, 2010
02:08 PM ET
13 years ago

Dean urges immediate action on DADT, says time 'is now'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Howard Dean is asking President Obama to move ahead with the repeal of DADT."]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"While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year," Dean writes.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.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. normajean

    I respect Howard Dean and agree with his ideas almost completely, but this one , while it is an ultimate need, i can't find it of quite the same importance as many of the other problems that the president is trying to balance at this time.The more immediate needs of attention,, I think, are jobs,oil in the Gulf of Mexico, home losses and getting the medical plan up and working for everyone.These are things that have touched the major portion of our society and while improving, are still painful for too many families. Pres. Obama is working as fast as he can to correct so many inherited things that priorities change for different segments of our society.

    May 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. Mike in Red State Kansas

    Why not let those that are serving have a say. I know the most conservative individuals that have told me that they had no problem serving with gays in the military. They said they did their work and did not make waves.

    May 8, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    After all these years, the Buzz Lightyear resemblance is still remarkable.

    So the plan is that gays, not to mention black/"Latino" gangbangers, can serve openly, while a recent white Marine recruit gets rejected for a confederate battle tattoo.

    Yep, today's Armed Forces. Perfect ambassadors for the New America.

    May 8, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. My Brother's Keeper

    It is NOT SMART to lobby President Obama in public on things like this.

    He can not be see to held hostage to outside interests even if DADT is something that he himself supports. Hispanic Caucus Chairman Guiterrez should learn this lesson too as he presses on immigration reform

    Dr. Dean, approach him in private and you might be successful.

    May 8, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  5. anti dean

    Howard Dean is as bad as all demorats. He spewed his lies along with the rest of them for a long time. If anything should be repeales it's dean and the rest of his cut throat gangsters.

    May 8, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. dale

    Then all the gay republicans can come out of the closet and stop abusing congressional pages and the use of male prostitutes, although may take a financial hit.

    May 8, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Albo58

    If there is anyone that really knows what the military NEEDS, it's Howard Dean...NOT! Instead of pandering to a minority about a low priority issue, perhaps Howard should point out the high unemployment that we have currently. This issue should be the "time is right" priority for the country!

    May 8, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Bobbie in Maryland

    This DADT policy has been a discrimination nightmare for too long! Just remove it! NOW!!!!!

    May 8, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. Pam, Eugene, OR

    This was yet another promise made by the man I voted for. So far I am pretty dissapointed in him.
    His was the first ever campaign I gave money to worked agressivly for. I will be 60 this summer and had never really truly cared about politics. But, this man inspired me.So far we got health reform with no public option We are still fighting two wars and our borders are open doors. We have no finance reform and DADT is full speed ahead. If you want my help in 2012 President Obama you will have to do MUCH better.

    May 8, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |

    Dean is right to worry about the legislative repeal of this issue. If DEMS don't hold the house in November, and the GOP takes over, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will not be passed in congress.

    America really should wake up........The current version of the GOP, want to cling to the past. They are not brave enough to accept some changes, that will not undermine who we are as a people and a country. The positive movement towards the right direction in the economy, on healthcare issues, wall street reform, energy, diplomacy, have been spearheaded by the Democratic party. The GOP has battled tooth and nail over so many policies, that it's disgusting.
    I do worry about a party getting back in power that has great anger, but lacks great ideas. I'm a card carrying republican.......However when I educate myself on Teddy Roosevelt, D. Eisenhower, & even Reagan, I know and see thyat this party is far from these great thinkers.

    It disgusting, and depressing me to see that we have a great leader in the WH right now, but there is no help in the Senate, or congress for him..........they are all scared to really fix America.

    May 8, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |