WASHINGTON — The United States should not rush into a change as large as repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military without making sure that the people it would affect are on board, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.
Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said an 11-month study of the effects of lifting the ban will examine practical questions, such as how the change would affect the number of people who decide to remain in the service when their terms expire.
"There is very little objective data on this. It is filled, as you know, with emotion and strongly held opinions and beliefs," Mullen said a day after announcing his own opposition to the ban, saying it is unfair to gay troops.
"That's the work we have to do over the course of this year. We need to understand that in terms of what the senior military leadership's principal concern is, which is the readiness and military effectiveness of the force," he said.
The study is seen by advocates of a quick repeal as an unnecessary delay or a political convenience designed to delay any real action to lift the ban until after congressional elections this fall.
Powell shifts stance: Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, who opposed allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces when he was the nation's top military officer, said Wednesday that he supports efforts to lift the ban on their service, the Washington Post reported. "Attitudes and circumstances have changed" in the 17 years since Congress, with strong military backing, mandated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Powell said in a statement issued by his office.