WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon's upcoming study on gays in the military is biased, some GOP lawmakers already contend, because it assumes Congress will repeal the 1993 law known as "don't ask, don't tell."
Republicans are likely to use that argument as they try to erode the credibility of the planned review, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates envisions as the first comprehensive look at 17-year-old policy.
Leading the assessment are the Defense Department's general counsel, Jeh Johnson, and the U.S. Army Forces Europe commander, Gen. Carter Ham. They were to testify Wednesday before a House Armed Services subcommittee for the first time since being named to lead the study.
"Many of us on this committee have serious concerns with putting our men and women in uniform through such a divisive debate while they are fighting two wars," said Rep. Buck McKeon of California, the committee's top Republican.
Gates has said it's probably inevitable that the law will change. He ordered the study to determine how that could be done with minimal effect on the force. President Barack Obama pledged to change the policy while running for the White House, but now needs Congress' blessing.
Obama also faces a skeptical military. The service chiefs have said they assurances that the troops' ability to fight will not be hurt. Proponents of the ban often argue that a unit's morale and sense of cohesion could erode if the unit included an openly gay member.
Gates said he thinks attitudes have changed, particularly among the younger generation that comprises the rank and file most frequently thrown into battle.
In a memo Tuesday about the debate, Gates said it was "critical that this effort be carried out in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner."
Congress has been divided on the issue, with some Democrats joining Republicans in their skepticism of lifting the ban.
Other lawmakers want an immediate change. On Wednesday, a dozen Democratic senators and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, introduced legislation that would repeal the law and specifically prohibit discrimination against service members on the basis of sexual orientation.
"We need all the qualified service members we have to fight. We shouldn't be dismissing them just because they're gay," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
McKeon is also unhappy with the selection of the RAND Corp. think tank to do much of the legwork for the study. In an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press, one of his aides told Pentagon officials that the company had "significant shortcomings" previously in analyzing the issue and worked with a group advocating repeal last year.
RAND spokesman Jeffrey Hiday said the company did not work side by side with the pro-repeal group last year.
AP National Security Writer Anne Gearan contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Gates' statement on the policy: http://tinyurl.com/yc8ekld