BY Kerry Eleveld
January 25 2010 5:55 PM ET
Democratic senator Carl Levin of Michigan said Monday during a press conference that "don't ask, don't tell" hearings would take place in early February, but at the request of a senior Defense Department official Levin stopped short of giving a specific date until after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address this Wednesday.
“Somebody representing the Pentagon said that the White House, that the president was expected, they thought, to state that policy at the State of the Union; and they thought it made more sense for him to state the policy than for us to have a hearing right before," Levin told a gaggle of reporters, according to The New York Times.
During the briefing, Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "I was hoping to be able to announce a date. I cannot announce a date, but it is our intent to begin those hearings in early February."
Levin added at the briefing that he was trying to set up the hearings in a "thoughtful" way so they would have the desired effect, "which is to change the policy."
"Bottom line, we're trying to structure this in a way where we're not just hearing from the top military people but we're also hearing from junior officers, enlisted personnel," Levin said. Defense secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen are both expected to testify at the hearings. But Levin said he had suggested that Secretary Gates do some polling inside the military to see whether there's been any change in attitudes about the gay ban over the years.
"I think there's a generational shift that's taken place," he said. "We've also got to show a sensitivity to the importance of our military moving in a direction which hopefully they will move but without being told, particularly by Congress. Now, if the commander in chief tells them that that's his decision, presumably, they're going to salute and say, 'Yes, sir.'"
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