Adm. Mullen: Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Is 'Right Thing to Do'

Top brass propose year-long study on how to overturn ban on gays in military.

ByABC News
February 1, 2010, 5:48 PM

Feb. 2, 2010— -- The country's two most senior defense officials announced the first steps in repealing the country's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans openly gay troops from serving in the military, calling abolishment of the law "the right thing to do."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a year-long Pentagon review of the 1993 policy, the first step towards reaching President Obama's goal of lifting the ban.

"I fully support the President's decision," Gates told the committee. "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 named a civilian, his chief legal advisor Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and a soldier, Gen. Carter Ham, who leads Army forces in Europe, to conduct the review.

"The mandate of this working group is to thoroughly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question and produce its finding and recommendations in the form of an implementation plan by the end of this calendar year," Gates said.

In the meantime, and in effort to implement the policy in a "more humane and fair manner" Gates said the military would "raise the bar of credible information needed to institute an inquiry" and likely suspend dismissing troops based solely on third party accusations of homosexual activity.

Gates and Mullen did not come to Congress with a concrete plan for repealing the ban, but rather an appeal for an open-minded discussion and plans to launch a review on how to best repeal the law.

Mullen said he knows many will disagree on changing the policy and said there are practical obstacles to lifting the 1993 ban.

But, he said, the soldiers on the ground would be able to handle the change

"I never underestimate their ability to adapt," he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who opposes overturning the law he helped pass in 1993, said of Gates' plan to overturn the law that he was "deeply disappointed."