We finally have clarity from the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs on the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy: they oppose it this year until the Pentagon’s study is completed.

Today Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) a letter (in response to an inquiry from Skelton) telling him that he doesn’t want Congress to take any action at all on DADT this year. From the letter obtained by ThinkProgress:

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 the Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective matter. [...]

Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.

This is actually bigger than just opposing repeal. Gates oppose any change to the policy before the study is done. That would appear to include any moratorium or stop-loss measure.

It’s a virtual certainty that Skelton, who isn’t on board with repeal anyway, will now use this to oppose altering the policy. And so we won’t see anything happen this year. But the idea that it becomes any easier to change it next year, after major losses in Congress for the Democrats, is absurd. And surely Gates and Mullen know that.

Furthermore, the one-year study time only put repeal out of reach for this Congress because it didn’t start until the beginning of 2010. If the Pentagon got to work immediately, they would have been well set-up to make policy changes in conjunction with this year’s defense authorization bill.

That certainly looks like it was by design, regardless of Gates and Mullen’s personal statements favoring repeal. The Defense Department set an arbitrary date out of reach of this Congress, prior to which DADT couldn’t be touched. Given the way Congress worships the military, they’ll comply. And then in the next Congress, everyone will shrug their shoulders and say “we don’t have the votes.” And that’s how discrimination continues in the US military.

UPDATE: Kirsten Gillibrand, who has led on this issue in the Senate, disagrees in a statement with Mullen and Gates:

“I respectfully disagree with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen. Congress should not sit on their hands.

“Now is the time for Congress to show strong leadership and repeal this disastrous policy. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is wrong for our national security and inconsistent with the moral foundation upon which our country was founded.

“When we repeal this policy – and we will repeal this policy – we will strengthen America – both militarily and morally.”