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Top Pentagon brass endorse ending 'don't ask, don't tell'

The Pentagon will undertake a year-long review of the 'don't ask, don't tell' law that bars gays from serving openly. A separate 45-day review will look to halting discharges of service members outed to by a third party.

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, right, accompanied by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

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The Pentagon is taking the first steps to peel back the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars homosexuals from serving openly in the military, with a year-long review of the law.

The assessment will look at attitudes within the military and what legal, social, and infrastructural changes would have to take place to repeal the law, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Mr. Gates has also ordered a 45-day review of the legal aspects of the law, with an eye to ensuring that service members outed by a third party are not discharged.

At the Senate hearing Tuesday, Mullen, a Vietnam war veteran and the senior officer of the military, acknowledged that not everyone agrees on eliminating the policy but said repeal is “the right thing to do.”

“No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen told a Senate panel. The military “can and would” accept a change, he said, adding, “I never underestimate their ability to adapt.”

The move comes a year after President Obama entered office pledging to end the 1993 policy responsible for forcing more than 13,000 service members out of the military. Scores more may have voluntarily left because they believed their sexual orientation was unwelcome in the military, say advocates for repeal.

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