WASHINGTON (AP) — Military training to apply the new law allowing gays to serve openly will begin in February and will move quickly, senior Pentagon leaders said Friday.
They said there is no intent to delay but would not guarantee full implementation of the repeal this year.
The hedge on scheduling came despite assertions by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech this week that the repeal of the 17-year-old ban will be finalized in 2011.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Gen. James Cartwright said he expects the military services to move expeditiously to train the bulk of their units, and that a year for completion is "a good goal."
Still, he added, "there's nothing that tells us that it's not reachable, but we have to allow for the fact that we may discover something between now and then."
Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he expects the services will know within the first month of training how well they are doing and how quickly they will be able to proceed.
Cartwright and Clifford Stanley, the defense undersecretary for personnel, said the military services will have a lot of latitude to determine their training process and schedule.
Both men appeared unable to describe what would be unacceptable behavior from service members, such as those who might crack jokes about sexual orientation.
Instead, they said it will be up to individual unit commanders to make sure their troops are professional and respectful. In fact, Stanley said, as a commander on the battlefield, he would be more concerned about insuring that his troops are focused on their mission and that they come home alive.
"I'm not sure I'm going to be too concerned with your orientation," said Stanley, a retired two-star general in the Marine Corps.