President Obama certified on Friday that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military won't adversely affect military readiness, the last major step toward ending the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Obama certified the repeal and notified Congress after meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen. The certification clears the way for repeal to take effect in 60 days, ending the ban-as the president said-"once and for all."
"As commander in chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, and military effectiveness," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Today's action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal."
"As of September 20, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country," the statement continued. "Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian."
The news of certification has already drawn fire from lawmakers opposed to repeal. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said he was "disappointed" that Obama hasn't "properly addressed" the concerns expressed by military service chiefs before certifying the repeal. "Their worry that the combat readiness of our force could be placed at risk, particularly those serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, must be taken seriously," McKeon said in a statement, adding that his committee will continue "vigorous oversight."
"To aid this effort, I am calling on the administration to immediately release to Congress each of the assessments performed by the services on the impact of repeal on their forces and all the regulations and policy documents that demonstrate the questions about implementation have been resolved," McKeon said.