A group opposed to “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” has accused President Barack Obama of punting repeal of the policy until 2013.

While the president has been clear on his support for repealing the policy that forces gay troops to keep their sexual orientation a secret, he's been vague about whether he supports repeal this year.

On Friday, the White House ended the speculation, saying the president agreed with the advice of military leaders that legislative action should come after the Pentagon completes its internal review of how best to implement changes should Congress repeal the law. The study – ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates – is due in December.

“The White House knows that the political environment will become more challenging over time,” Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a group that supports repeal, and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said. “If repeal doesn't happen this calendar year, it is unlikely to pass until after the next presidential election.”

In a response to Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee, Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said they “strongly oppose” lifting the gay ban before the review is complete.

“Our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully,” Gates and Mullen wrote.

“Today's letter represents a public effort by the Obama Administration to put a stop to Congressional repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell” in 2010,” Christopher Neff, deputy director of the Palm Center, said. “Clearly, the Department of Defense is not its own branch of government. The secretary of defense serves the president.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that lobbies for repeal of the law, said his group “repudiates the delay game plan” being coordinated by Skelton, Gates, Mullen and the White House.

Michigan Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, is expected to sponsor repeal language in the defense budget in the Senate, while Representative Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is considered the most likely to offer the legislation in the House.

The window to act, however, is quickly coming to a close as markups for the 2011 defense authorization bill on both sides of Congress are expected to take place within the next 3 weeks. A House vote may come as early as May 24.