Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is preparing to address possible changes to the military's policy on gays as he transitions to duty under a new commander in chief, the New York Times reported.
Mullen has had "initial conversations" with top commanders about the issue, knowing that President-elect Obama plans to work towards the policy's repeal during his time in office. "The president-elect's been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue," Mullen told the Times. "And so I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come."
10 USC 654, or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," was signed by President Clinton in 1993 as a compromise after the political backlash in his early days in office from an attempt to repeal an outright ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. "Don't Ask" allows gays and lesbians to serve on the condition that they remain closeted. Since its inception, "Don't Ask" has led to the end of over 12,500 military careers, with an estimated two more joining those ranks every day.
"[My] paramount obligation is to get the best possible people to keep America safe," Obama told The Advocate in April. "I think there's increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that ['Don't Ask'] is a counterproductive strategy...we're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of the military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn't make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology."
In November, a coalition of retired military generals and admirals signed a statement calling for the repeal of "Don't Ask." One of the 104 signatories, retired Admiral Charles Larson, was originally a supporter of the policy, but after conversing at length with his lesbian daughter and witnessing what he called "witch hunts,", he determined that the policy was ultimately depriving the military. "I think the time has come to find a way to let talented, young, patriotic Americans who want to serve their country serve," Larson said, "and let's enforce high standards of personal and human behavior for everyone."