DADT on the backburner

DADT ON THE BACKBURNER…. Barack Obama’s transition team has been assiduous in its efforts to identify the early mistakes recent presidents have made, and mapping out a strategy to learn from history. It’s not a surprise, then, that the President-elect is reluctant to add a “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to his early to-do list.

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military’s decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

“I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.

Mr. Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held “informal discussions” with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.

Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Center for American Progress and an adviser to the Obama campaign, said the new administration should set up a Pentagon committee to make recommendations to Congress on a host of manpower issues, including the gay ban.

“If it’s part of a larger package, it has a better chance of getting passed,” he said.

If Obama wants to put this on the backburner for a little while, that’s understandable. There’s a financial crisis and national security considerations to tackle first, and voters would no doubt be unhappy if the new president tackled “don’t ask, don’t tell” early on.

But Obama cannot forget about his campaign pledge altogether. He promised during the campaign to pursue a repeal through a process in consultation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he still appears ready to do so. That Obama aides have been in consultation the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is probably a good sign, but the issue can’t be put off indefinitely.

The SLDN’s Sarvis told the Washington Times, “What’s the reality for the new administration? Financial crisis. Economic upheaval. Health care reform. Environmental challenges. Where does ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ fall in all this? I would say it is not in the top five priorities of national issues.”

Nevertheless, Sarvis is optimistic that a repeal of the ban is “likely” during Obama’s first term.