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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Military to accelerate training for end of 'don't ask'

By Craig Whitlock

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he was "confident" the military will meet all requirements to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law this year, adding that the Pentagon will accelerate training programs to pave the way for gays and lesbians to serve openly.

"We're shooting to get it done sooner rather than later," Gates told reporters from The Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times in a joint interview Wednesday evening as he flew to Ottawa to meet with Canadian defense officials.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama vowed sometime this year to stop enforcing the 17-year-old law that forces gay troops to stay in the closet or risk expulsion. "Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love," Obama said, without giving details.

On Friday, Pentagon officials are scheduled to fill in the blanks and provide a timetable for meeting conditions that would end the ban.

Congress voted in December to overturn the law. But lawmakers stipulated that the reversal not take effect until 60 days after Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certify that the military has adequately prepared troops for the change.

Defense officials said they need to iron out policy changes regarding housing, personnel and health benefits. They are also planning to put every member of the armed forces through a training program.

"We don't know how long it'll take to train the entire force, but I'm confident we can get it done this year," Gates said. "I don't want to get into specific dates, but we are moving -- we will move as fast as we responsibly can."

By Craig Whitlock  | January 27, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
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