- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2000

The Pentagon's top general said yesterday that the policy on allowing homosexuals to serve unnoticed in the military is working, disputing President Clinton's claim that the policy is "way out of whack."

Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the next chairman should be chosen for his military experience and "integrity" and not for his views on homosexuals in the ranks.

Asked about Vice President Al Gore's campaign promise to pick only candidates for the Joint Chiefs who share his favorable view of homosexuals, Gen. Shelton said "the senior military try to be and are apolitical and certainly giving comments on presidential candidates right now is not something I plan to make a career out of."

"However, I think that any commander in chief would want to choose his principal military adviser based on his operational experience, his judgment, his integrity," Gen. Shelton told a breakfast meeting of defense writers. "Those [are] things that you normally would look for in choosing the leader of any military organization or of any other major corporation."

Mr. Gore, who is candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on Jan. 5 that he would overturn the current policy known as "don't ask, don't tell," and enable homosexuals to serve without hiding their sexual proclivities. "I would insist, before appointing anyone to the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Mr. Gore said, "that individual would support my policy. And yes, I'll make that a requirement."

Following criticism from current and former military officers and others, Mr. Gore retreated somewhat, and said he would not impose a homosexual litmus test on officers but would require his appointees to carry out his policies something every military officer already takes a vow to do.

Of the current homosexual policy, Gen. Shelton said, "It's a law that I think strikes the proper balance between the requirement for good law, order and discipline in the military and individual rights.

"I think we've got it right and I would not argue that the implementation leaves something to be desired."

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first lady and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in New York, seeks to change the homosexual policy to enable homosexuals to serve openly. Her criticism of "don't ask, don't tell" prompted Mr. Clinton to say that the policy is "way out of whack" but should not be abandoned.

Mr. Clinton has said he is "sympathetic" to his wife's claim that the policy is broken and that "it does not work as I announced it" in 1993.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen also appeared at odds with the president last month when he told reporters "we believe that this policy has worked and will continue to work" but needs fixing "as far as the harassment aspect."

The military currently is looking to see whether hidden homosexuals are harassed at military installations, following the fatal beating of a soldier perceived to be homosexual at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Mr. Cohen ordered a militarywide survey of troops to determine if homosexuals are being harassed.

"I think the current policy is correct," Gen. Shelton said. "… I think we need to look at each of our installations and, as we're doing, do some additional training, some reinforcement of the way the system is supposed to work and make sure we're implementing it properly. I don't think the policy is broken."

On other matters, Gen. Shelton defended the program to develop a system to protect the United States from long-range missiles.

"We are on a fast track," he said. "We don't consider it rushing to failure, but we do consider it rushing."

The Pentagon will conduct one more test before Mr. Clinton decides this summer whether to deploy the system, which would include interceptor missiles in Alaska.

A test in October was successful and a second one last month was a "near miss," Gen. Shelton said.

"From my perspective, I'm comfortable with the June deadline, but again we're not deploying the system per se," he said. "We're not going to start building launchers. We will simply say we have a system that can be effective."

Gen. Shelton said building missile defenses against short-range missiles is a high priority for the military and that national missile defenses are needed to counter growing threats from long-range missiles launched by rogue states.

On Kosovo, Gen. Shelton said the problem is difficult because of the strong "animosity and the desire for retribution" among Kosovar Albanians. "I think all we can do right now is try to get the civil implementation put back in place," he said.

U.S. forces in Kosovo are responsible for keeping the peace in 27 different locations in Kosovo and as a result "they're stretched pretty thin."

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