Military Explores Dismantling of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

BY Quinn Bowman  February 2, 2010 at 3:48 PM EST

Top U.S. military officials on Tuesday echoed President Obama’s call for a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, telling a Senate panel that they were preparing for an eventual undoing of the rule that prohibits gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

“No matter how I look at the issue,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Armed Services Committee. “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

Watch highlights of Tuesday’s hearing:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has cautioned in the past against repealing the policy too quickly, that he appointed two advisers to begin a yearlong review of steps the military must take to integrate openly gay service members.

“I fully support the president’s decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it. We have received our orders from the commander in chief, and we are moving out accordingly,” Gates told lawmakers.

It would take congressional action to undo the rule that has been in effect since 1993 and it would mark the largest change in military personnel policies since President Truman’s executive order integrating the services in 1948.

Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the panel, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the Pentagon’s review of the policy and called the assessment “clearly biased” because it presumes the law should be changed.

“Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not,” the Arizona senator said. “But it has been effective.”

At the start of the hearing, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, welcomed the end of the policy, saying it had never made sense to him, the New York Times reported.

The review will be led by Army Gen. Carter Ham and General Counsel Jeh Johnson, and it is expected to examine sensitive issues, including the possibility of extending marriage and bereavement benefits to gay service members’ partners.