McCain balks at ‘don’t ask’ report

December 3, 2010

By Joseph Weber-The Washington Times

Sen. John McCain of Arizona led a group of skeptical Republicans questioning a new Pentagon report that supports the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays serving in the military.

Lawmakers got their first opportunity Thursday to question top Pentagonofficials on Capitol Hill about the findings of a much-anticipated study released Tuesday, focusing largely on the possible timeline for such a change and its potential impact on military operations, especially on front-line combat units.

Mr. McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, emerged as the chief critic of the report and Democrats’ efforts to repeal the Clinton-era policy on gays serving openly in the military.

“I am not saying this law should never change,” Mr. McCain said. “I am simply saying that it may be premature to make such a change at this time and in this manner.”

But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of StaffChairman Adm. Mike Mullen defended the recommendation and urgedCongress to act and not leave the matter to the courts. Adm. Mullenbristled at one point when it was suggested his opinion was less valuable than that of commanders directly dealing with troops.

“You do not have to agree with me on this issue,” Adm. Mullen told Mr. McCain. “But don’t think for one moment that I haven’t carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that advice informs.”

A second day of hearings Friday could produce new drama as the leaders of the four services – the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy – will testify. The most anticipated testimony Friday will likely be from Marine Commandant James F. Amos, who has openly questioned the call for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In pressing for quick congressional action, Mr. Gates said a legal decision to end the policy would give military leaders “zero time” to prepare.

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