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Army, Marine chiefs cast doubt on gay service

 


WASHINGTON (AP) — The top uniformed officers of the Army and the Marines told a Senate panel Friday that letting gays serve openly in the military at a time of war would be divisive and difficult, sharply challenging a new Pentagon study that calculates the risk as low.

Their assessment was likely to become political ammunition for Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans fighting to keep Congress from repealing the 1993 law that prohibits gays from acknowledging their sexual orientation. Democrats have promised a vote this month to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, although its chances of passing this year were considered slim.

"If the law is changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat," the Marine commandant, Gen. James Amos, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, who led the Iraq war under President George W. Bush, was somewhat more optimistic. He said the policy shift, if implemented properly, wouldn't keep the Army from doing its job, and he predicted repeal would pose only a moderate risk to his force.

But, he added, changing the law now would "add another level of stress to any already stretched force" and be more difficult on the Army, particularly its combat units, than the recent Pentagon study suggests.

McCain said the testimony by the service chiefs should be given special consideration.

"It is the job of the service chiefs to ensure that our military is ready and able to win the nation's wars," he said at the beginning of Friday's hearing.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to overturn the ban on openly gay service. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed and ordered a 10-month study looking at the attitudes of service members toward gay troops.

Released earlier this week, the study found that a minority of troops — about 30 percent — predicted potential problems if "don't ask, don't tell" were repealed.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top uniformed officers of the Army and the Marines told a Senate panel Friday that letting gays serve openly in the military at a time of war would be divisive and difficult, sharply challenging a new Pentagon study that calculates the risk as low.

Their assessment was likely to become political ammunition for Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans fighting to keep Congress from repealing the 1993 law that prohibits gays from acknowledging their sexual orientation. Democrats have promised a vote this month to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, although its chances of passing this year were considered slim.

"If the law is changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat," the Marine commandant, Gen. James Amos, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, who led the Iraq war under President George W. Bush, was somewhat more optimistic. He said the policy shift, if implemented properly, wouldn't keep the Army from doing its job, and he predicted repeal would pose only a moderate risk to his force.

But, he added, changing the law now would "add another level of stress to any already stretched force" and be more difficult on the Army, particularly its combat units, than the recent Pentagon study suggests.

McCain said the testimony by the service chiefs should be given special consideration.

"It is the job of the service chiefs to ensure that our military is ready and able to win the nation's wars," he said at the beginning of Friday's hearing.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to overturn the ban on openly gay service. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed and ordered a 10-month study looking at the attitudes of service members toward gay troops.

Released earlier this week, the study found that a minority of troops — about 30 percent — predicted potential problems if "don't ask, don't tell" were repealed.

 

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