Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pentagon makes it harder to expel gays in military

Defense Secretary Robert Gates discusses changes to the Pentagon's ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military during a media briefing in the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, March 25, 2010.

The Pentagon made immediate changes on Thursday to make it harder for the U.S. military to kick out gay personnel, an interim step while Congress debates repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the directives were the result of a 45-day review of what the Pentagon can do in the short term within the confines of existing law to allow implementation in a "fair and more appropriate manner."

In the directives, Gates raised the rank of those allowed to begin investigation procedures against suspected violators of "don't ask, don't tell," which bars homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

He also raised the level for what constitutes "credible" information to start an inquiry and took steps to curb expulsions of servicemen and women "outed" by third parties.

Specifically, the directives state that information provided by third parties be given under oath and authorities discourage the use of overheard statements and hearsay in "don't ask, don't tell" cases.

"These modifications will take effect immediately and will apply to all open and future cases," Gates said.

"I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice, above all by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process foar handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved."

Critics say the Pentagon has been dragging its feet in response to President Barack Obama's call to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

Gates defended the Pentagon's pace and cautioned against efforts advocated by some lawmakers to implement a moratorium or an outright repeal of the policy before the Pentagon completes a fuller review by December 1.

While the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, has supported a repeal, several prominent officers and lawmakers have questioned lifting the ban at a time when the U.S. military is stretched by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions in terms of the implementation of this," Gates told a news conference. "Doing it hastily is very risky and I think does not address some of the concerns that have been expressed."

Mullen concurred, saying that "doing it with ease could easily generate a very bad outcome."

People who oppose allowing gays to serve openly in the military argue it would harm morale, undermine unit cohesion and hurt good order and discipline in the ranks.

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