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Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen (R) participate in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on February 2, 2010 in Washington, DC.
It was a big part of President Obama’s campaign; he vowed again in his first State of the Union to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the popular term for the military’s current ban against gays serving openly in the military. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has announced his tacit support for ending the ban. But other high ranking military officers, including four other members of the Joint Chiefs, remain opposed. Secretary Gates has ordered a comprehensive study of the policy, although the ultimate decision comes down to Congress. What’s the best way forward for a military already strained by two wars? And would a lift of the ban really damage unit cohesion and recruitment efforts, as supporters of the ban fear?
James Bowman, resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center
Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center of the University of California in Santa Barbara. He is also author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America (St. Martin's Press)