BY Kerry Eleveld
February 01 2010 10:10 PM ET
* Watch video of the hearing at the bottom of the page.
Department of Defense secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will announce during a Tuesday hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee steps they intend to take toward altering the way “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations are enforced.
The joint appearance is the first of its kind in the 17 years since the gay ban was initiated, but it’s not clear if the Obama administration’s strategy will also include pressing for congressional repeal even as the Pentagon makes internal adjustments.
During the White House press briefing Monday, The Advocate asked if President Obama envisioned “a dual track” where DOD reworks the policy as legislation is moving through Congress.
“I think you'll see efforts on a number of fronts over the course of the next many months that will be outlined by Secretary Gates, outlined by Admiral Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, to address what the president promised — again, dating back to his Senate campaign in 2003 and 2004 — to seek the overturning of "don't ask, don't tell" a number of different ways,” said press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Meanwhile, Gates was asked at Monday’s DOD briefing if the policy was addressed in the budget.
“The budget doesn't address it,” he said. “Stay tuned 'til tomorrow.”
Representatives of the Palm Center, a California-based think tank that studies sexual minorities in the military, released a statement saying they expect one of the Pentagon’s regulatory changes to include what type of information triggers an investigation into someone’s sexuality.
The change would “protect some service members from investigations based on third-party allegations and set a new standard for what constitutes reliable sources and credible information that trigger a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ investigation,” read the statement.
Eliminating third-party investigations would solve a “small slice” of the problem, according to Dixon Osburn, who cofounded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and served as executive director for 13 years. But Osburn said third-party outings account for only about 5% of SLDN’s clients.
But if, for instance, DOD also excluded what Osburn referred to as “a zone of privacy statements” that people sometimes make to family, friends, and counselors, that would help solve “a big problem,” he added.
Changing the investigation procedure is something SLDN recommended in several reports dating back to the mid ’90s.