WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Friday that ending the ban on gays in the military will require no major changes to policy, with training for commanders and troops under the new rules set to start next month.
After Congress voted to scrap the ban on openly gay troops in December, the US military presented its plans on carrying out the landmark change, vowing to move swiftly over the next several months to prepare the force.
General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference he was confident the military could meet President Barack Obama’s goal of formally ending the ban by the end of this year.
The chiefs of the armed services all agreed “that moving along expeditiously is better than dragging it out,” Cartwright said.
“We’ve learned that from other services, other nations that have moved down this path,” he added.
But he acknowledged that there would be challenges along the way, saying “that when you’re dealing with two and a half million people and a new policy that we’re probably going to have some discovery as we go.”
In a memo released Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called implementing the repeal “a milestone event” for the Pentagon and said it was vital that it be carried out with “strong, engaged and informed leadership.”
The military’s policies would not have to be drastically rewritten under the new law, said Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“We expect the training part to start very quickly,” Stanley told the same press conference.
“We expect to see essentially not a lot of changes in the policy but there’s definitely policy clarification.”
Members of the military would be expected to treat all their comrades “with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline,” he said.
Under federal law which does not recognize same sex marriages, partners of gay troops would not be eligible for military benefits such as medical care, travel and housing allowances, Stanley said in a separate memorandum to the civilian chiefs of the armed services.
Lawmakers voted to end the prohibition after the Pentagon issued a study that found a solid majority of troops were not bothered by the prospect of lifting the ban.
Known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban required gay or lesbian troops to stay quiet about their sexual orientation or face discharge.
The rule remains in effect but no service member has been discharged since November, officials said.
Under the law adopted by Congress, the ban formally ends 60 days after Obama, Gates and top military officer Admiral Mike Mike Mullen inform lawmakers that the military is ready to move ahead.