- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sen. John McCain on Thursday challenged top Pentagon officials and a military study on gays serving in the armed forces, saying that the study is flawed and that letting gays serve openly during wartime would be dangerous at this time.

But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they stood by a Pentagon study that concluded it was time for Congress to move to change the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, who is the ranking GOP member on the committee, said now is not the time to consider repealing the Clinton-era policy, but he earlier said he would reserve final judgment until the study findings were released.

“At this time, we should be inherently cautious about making any changes that would affect our military, and what changes we do make should be the product of careful and deliberate consideration,” Mr. McCain said.

He also criticized the study by saying it focused only on how the 1993 law could be repealed, instead of whether doing so would benefit the military.

Mr. McCain’s statement was directly challenged by Mr. Gates and Adm. Mullen, the military’s top uniformed officer.

“Repeal of the law will not prove unacceptable risk to military readiness,” Adm. Mullen told the panel, holding the first of two days of hearings on the report. “Unit cohesion will not suffer if our units are well led, and families will not encourage their loved ones to leave the service in droves.”

The study was released Tuesday. The leaders of the four branches of the U.S. armed services are scheduled to testify Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has vowed to vote on the ban during the lame-duck session that ends at Christmas break, but it was not clear if Republicans would allow a vote to take place.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.