Pentagon working to limit 'disruptions' from openly gay service members 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced at a Senate hearing that he is putting in place a working group whose mission will be to find a path forward to repeal the U.S military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay men and women in the military.

But Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a veiled warning as he sat by Gates' side.

"It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," but he added "There will be some disruption in the force, I cannot deny. We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns and that is what our review will offer."

Gates and Mullen, who appeared before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, reminded lawmakers that "we can only take the process only so far as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress."

The Senate has begun tackling the issue less than a week after President Obama promised to work with Congress this year to repeal the policy, but even Pentagon officials who support lifting the policy said there may be too much opposition in Congress to pass the required legislation.

Many Republicans oppose repealing the policy, as do some Democrats, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo.

The House currently has no plans to take up the repeal, although Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said recently he believes a provision will be included in the yet-unwritten House Defense Department authorization bill. House Republican leaders have pledged to block such a move.

"The burden is on this administration to prove lifting don't ask don't tell will make us safe," Republican Conference Committee Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., said Tuesday.

Gates said the Pentagon's top lawyer, Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham, the U.S. commanding general of the Army in Europe, will lead the panel.

"A guiding principle of our efforts will be to minimize disruption and polarization within the ranks, with special attention paid to those serving on the front lines. I am confident that this can be achieved," Gates said.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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