Gates & Mullen To Discuss ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ on Hill on Tuesday

Jan 28, 2010 6:02pm

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: Next Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will dedicate the final hour of its pre-scheduled Pentagon budget hearing to discuss the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.  The Pentagon policy bans gays from serving openly in the military .   In his State of the Union remarks, President Obama said he would work with Congress towards repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law on which the policy is based, but did not specify a timeframe for how to do so.According to Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, "The Secretary and the Chairman have been and continue to work on an implementation plan and will be able to share it with you early next week.”  Morrell said he was not aware of what specifics might be discussed at next week’s Hill appearance.Gates and Mullen are expected to discuss steps that the Pentagon would have to undertake internally before the White House and the Congress move to change the law.  Gates has said in the past that changing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be a process that’s done “very very carefully” and in a way that mitigates any downsides. Adm. Mullen’s spokesperson, Capt. John Kirby, says, “The Chairman and the Chiefs very clearly understand the President’s intent to repeal the law and take very seriously their obligation to give him and the Secretary their best military advice about the impact on the force and potential ways to think through an implementation policy.”    A senior defense official says it’s likely that at the hearing, Gates will also discuss options, studied by the Pentagon’s General Counsel, about ways to ease punishments on gay servicemembers who were outed by a third party.  Gates requested that the General Counsel look into the possibility last summer.  The official third party outings make up a very small number of those who are discharged from the military.According to the latest DOD records available, 619 servicemembers were discharged under the policy in 2008. The week after next, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold another hearing on the subject with an outside panel, panelists are still to be determined. 

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