February 2, 2010 in Nation/World

Study will scrutinize ‘don’t ask’

Anne Flaherty And Anne Gearan Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates today will take the first real steps toward lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military, announcing a yearlong review aimed at answering practical and emotional questions about the effect of lifting the ban, and imposing looser standards for enforcing the ban in the meantime.

According to U.S. officials, the senior-level study will be co-chaired by a top-ranked civilian and a senior uniformed officer. It would recommend the best way to go about lifting the ban, starting from the premise that it will take time to accomplish that goal but that it can be done without harming the capabilities or cohesion of the military force, officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the emerging Pentagon plan ahead of Gates’ announcement.

While the review is likely to take a year to complete, and even more time to implement, its initiation will advance President Barack Obama’s goal of repealing the ban and bring a divisive issue for the military and Congress back to the fore.

Gates will testify before the Senate on the issue, alongside Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both were expected to make their most far-reaching statements on the ban widely known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I think you’ll see efforts on a number of fronts over the course of the next many months … to address what the president promised,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

One U.S. official said Gates and Mullen will outline a more lenient standard for enforcing the ban. The interim policy would make it harder for a third party to turn in a gay service member and would raise the standard for evidence that the service member is gay before the person could be dismissed.

Under the 1993 law, engaging in homosexual conduct can qualify a person for dismissal. The law was intended as a compromise between President Bill Clinton, who wanted to lift the ban, and a reluctant Congress and military that said doing so would threaten order.

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