* Report to be released a day earlier than expected
* Report aims to inform lawmakers considering repeal -Gates
By David Alexander
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia(Reuters) - A long-awaited
Pentagon report on the impact of lifting the ban on gays
serving openly in the U.S. military will be sent to Congress
and released publicly on Nov. 30, Defense Secretary Robert
Gates said Sunday.
The release would be a day earlier than previously expected
as the Pentagon pushes to get the report to the Senate Armed
Services Committee before hearings on the issue, Pentagon press
secretary Geoff Morrell said.
The report, in the works since February, could have a
significant impact on the Obama administration's effort to push
a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy through Congress
before the end of the year.
The policy bars gays from serving openly in the military
but allows them to serve in the armed forces as long as they
keep their sexual orientation private.
Speaking to reporters in Santa Cruz, where he was attending
a conference of Americas defense ministers, Gates indicated he
preferred the issue be resolved by Congress rather than the
courts. A judge in October ordered the Pentagon to stop
enforcing the policy, but the order has been stayed pending
"All I know is if this law is going to change, it's better
that it be changed by legislation ... rather than have it
struck down by the courts, with the potential for us having to
implement it immediately," he said.
President Barack Obama has pledged to do away with the
policy, adopted in 1993, but big gains by Republicans in the
Nov. 2 elections have raised doubts about whether he can muster
the votes to end the ban once the new Congress takes power in
Obama has urged lawmakers to pass the measure this year,
and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it would be
considered as part of a bill authorizing defense spending that
would brought up for a vote after the Thanksgiving holiday
Gates said Sunday he sought the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
report in February in an effort to inform the Pentagon what it
needed to do if the law were changed and to help lawmakers as
they considered the repeal.
The report, which included a survey of service members, has
been closely guarded, but The Washington Post reported earlier
this month that the group conducting the study had determined
the ban on gays could be lifted with little impact on the
military and the current wars.
The Post said more than 70 percent of active-duty and
military reserve members said in a survey the impact of lifting
the ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent. Gates launched
an investigation of the leaking incident.
Gates intended initially to have the report on his desk by
Dec. 1, with further review to follow. But he has accelerated
the schedule to get the report to the Armed Services
"The secretary has instructed his staff, without cutting any
corners, to have everything ready a day sooner because he wants
to ensure members of the Armed Services Committee are able to
read and consider the complex, lengthy report before holding
hearings with its authors and the Joint Chiefs of Staff,"
A federal judge ordered the military to stop enforcing the
ban in October and there has been confusion about the policy as
higher courts have upheld or overruled implementation of the
order while awaiting an appeal.
At one point, the military had four different policies in
the space of two weeks, Gates said, which raised his concern
about having the issue settled by the courts.
"Having to implement this immediately and without
preparation and without taking the steps to mitigate whatever
risks there are, I think, is the worst of all possible
outcomes, being directed to do it by a court with no notice,"
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
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