President Obama says in an interview with The Advocate that his "strong sense" is that implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal will be "a matter of months...absolutely not years—and that we will get this done in a timely fashion, and the chiefs are confident that it will get done in a timely fashion. They understand this is not something that they’re going to be slow-walking."
By law, the president, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and secretary of defense all must certify that the armed forces are ready for repeal before implementation may begin. While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it could be years until he'd be ready to sign off on implementation, he's also said he'll be gone sometime in 2011, so it seems likely that implementation will begin sometime in the next 12 months.
Mackubin Thomas Owens suggests it would be best for implementation to be "staggered":
Perhaps the best we can hope for is that implementation will be “staggered,” starting with the support establishments (where unit cohesion is less important) and leaving combat units for last. This would be in line with the practice of other countries that permit military service by open homosexuals.
Such an approach is also in keeping with the “functional imperative” of the U.S. military — fighting and winning the nation’s wars. The fact is that advocates of repeal never identified a single benefit of repealing the ban when it comes to recruiting, retention, unit effectiveness, and readiness of the force. Staggering implementation is a way to minimize the adverse consequences of Congress’s action.
That's exactly what Democratic senator Jim Webb of Virginia has called for, and Secretary Gates's agreement that repeal could be staggered is what secured Webb's vote for repeal. As Webb said during a floor speech on DADT repeal last week:
The question is whether a change in policy will create difficulties in small unit cohesion. That depends, as I mentioned during the hearings, on how the policy is implemented. I wrote a letter yesterday to Secretary Gates to reaffirm my understanding that this repeal would contemplate a sequenced implementation of the provisions for different units in the military as reasonably determined by the service chiefs, the combatant commanders in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He responded to me this morning saying, ‘This legislation would indeed permit’ it, and ‘The specific concerns you raise would be foremost in my mind as we develop an implementation plan.’
“Without this, Mr. President, I would not be voting to repeal this. I have spent my entire life in and around the military, including five years in the Pentagon. With this understanding and with the notion that we need to be putting a policy into place that allows an open way of living among people who have different points of view, I'm going to support this legislation.”