Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday the Pentagon will need roughly a year to study allowing openly gay Americans to serve in the military to ensure the government makes no missteps.
“The overriding imperative is to get this right,” Mr. Gates said before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He said that soldiers fighting two overseas wars adds to the complexity of the situation.
Mr. Gates also said the U.S. government has “a degree of latitude within the existing laws” to make changes to the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military.
President Obama ordered the Pentagon last week during his State of the Union address to begin efforts to repeal the policy, based on a 1993 law.
Mr. Gates said a preliminary study already has been completed and the final one will include a “wide variety” of sources, including Congress.
“The Department of Defense understands this is a very difficult and, in the minds of some, a ‘controversial’ issue,” he said.
Mr. Gates also vowed the the review committee would address the issue in a “dispassionate” way.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during testimony he personally is deeply troubled by a policy that forces people to “lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
He also said the review was “the right thing to do.”
The study could pave the way for the biggest social change to the military since the 1948 executive order for the racial integration of units.
While Mr. Obama’s promise is being hailed as a good start by gay rights activists, the president is finding resistance in several corners. Some high-ranking military officers are reluctant to embrace the change while troops are stretched thin at a time of two wars.
In addition, Sen. John McCain, the committtee’s ranking Republican, said he was “deeply disappointed” about the study and that it was “clearly biased” because it presumes the law should be changed.
Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham, who leads Army forces in Europe, were named co-chairmen of the study.View Entire Story
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