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Eye Opener: Big day for 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! Lawmakers on Tuesday will hold the first hearing on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy since July 2008, when Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen are expected to announce the creation of a group to assess how to carry out a full repeal of the decades-old policy that requires gays to keep their sexual orientation secret.

But the policy isn't going anywhere anytime soon, as Gates and Mullen are expected to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that it could take years to integrate gay men and lesbians fully into the military, according to The Post's Craig Whitlock and Michael D. Shear. (The Federal Eye will live blog the Senate hearing, which is slated to begin around Noon ET.) Two appointees will be named to oversee a group that will draw up plans for integrating the armed forces, according to sources familiar with the Pentagon's deliberations on the subject. The planning effort is expected to take up to a year.

Gates -- who fired a top general on Monday for his failure to oversee the Joint Strike Fighter program -- has asked Pentagon lawyers whether the military could ignore allegations made by snitches, civilians or other third parties. Under such a scenario, gay military personnel would face discharge only if they themselves declare their sexual orientation. It's expected the military will let up on such charges in the interim while the group meets.

Gay rights groups call today's hearing historic even as they question how quickly the administration's plans to act. A House Armed Services subcommittee last held a hearing on the matter and their Senate colleagues have not formally discussed the matter in more than ten years -- and beyond President Obama's recent call for a repeal, the White House has done little to accelerate the issue.

The legislative path forward remains unclear, but Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), the first Iraq veteran elected to Congress, has proposed a bill banning the policy that has 187 cosponsors. It's unclear if he can garner enough support from moderate or conservative Democrats to get the bill passed this year.

Over the past 12 years, nearly 11,000 people have been discharged from military service for being gay.

Among them is Lt. Dan Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate and Arab linguist who publicly announced that he was gay in a series of television interviews last spring and has emerged as a public face of the movement calling for repeal. On Tuesday he will deliver 458,039 letters of support to Capitol Hill calling for an immediate end to the policy.

"By asking America's service members to lie, 'don't ask, don't tell' forces soldiers like me to break military code at the most fundamental level," Choi said in a statement released early this morning. "The people in my unit do not have a problem serving alongside me and it's time for our leaders to catch up. Don't wait. Don't delay. We need a full repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' now."

But it looks like he'll have to wait longer.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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Chat With The Eye: Join yours truly for the daily Post Politics Hour at 11 a.m. ET. Submit your questions on the 2011 budget, Congress, politics, the stimulus, etc. THEN: Check The Federal Eye for live blogging of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

Cabinet and Staff News: First Lady Michelle Obama meets today with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss childhood obesity prevention efforts. Duncan called New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to clarify his comments on Hurricane Katrina and the city's schools. Why is Peter Orszag so sexy? Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) suggests Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should resign. Speaking of Holder, he appointed three U.S. attorneys to his advisory committee. A key Labor Department nominee clears a procedural hurdle.

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Administration retooling key part of 'No Child' law: The Obama administration will seek to scrap a key metric in the eight-year-old law -- the standard of "adequate yearly progress" for public schools -- as it develops a new formula to hold schools accountable for student performance.

Clash over student privacy: The department has fired the top federal official charged with protecting student privacy, in what the dismissed official says was a conflict with the agency's political leaders over their zeal to encourage the collection of data about students' academic performance.

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Federal budget restores civilian-military pay parity, but the raise is small: The good news for federal workers is that the White House is now advocating pay parity. The bad news is that the proposed raises in fiscal 2011 are significantly lower than either bunch is getting this year: just a 1.4 percent boost for both groups.

Obama officials present a strategic redefining of Homeland Security's mission: A copy of the department's first quadrennial review, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that the government's approach to homeland security continues to evolve away from a singular focus on terrorism.

Could Gitmo topple Democrats in Illinois?: Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown got a lot of traction suggesting that U.S. tax dollars shouldn't go to defend terrorist suspects but to protect Americans. Will Gitmo help Illinois Republicans?

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 2, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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I saw an article a few days ago the claimed there are something like 66,000 gay and lesbian troops already serving in the military.

Now I read "Gates and Mullen are expected to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that it could take years to integrate gay men and lesbians fully into the military..." They are already there, duh!

Posted by: dotellen | February 2, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

As a gay man who was in the Navy from 1959 to 1963, I believe that President Obama should end don't ask, don't tell with a stroke of the pen by executive order. The policy is simply immoral. I sent money to help insure Mr. Obama's ascent to the Presidency. Until such time as this policy is overturned, I will not donate one penny to the Democratic party. President Obama seems to have forgot that progressives and Gay men and women sent him to the white house. John Mokricky in San Francisco

Posted by: johnsfny | February 2, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

It's about time to rid the military of this archaic practice. Just because someone is or isn't gay doesn't mean they can't do the job. The gays are just as much American as are the hetrosexuals. Let's come into the 21st Century.

Posted by: wilson0004 | February 2, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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