Mullen: Military should have been able to complete review before gay ban repeal

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said Sunday that Congress should have waited until the Defense Department completed its troop survey before moving forward with legislation to repeal the "Don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military.

"I would've preferred that the legislation was not brought forward until we were done with review," Mullen told Candy Crowley this morning on CNN's "State of the Union."

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"I have said I think it is important to get through this review," said Mullen, who supports ending the ban. "It's really critical to understand the points of view of who it affects the most."

The House passed legislation attached to a defense authorization bill on Friday that would repeal the ban and a Senate panel acted on Thursday, with Webb voting against the plan.

Webb wouldn't provide his support for a repeal, saying he will defer to what soldiers say they want.

"I'm really disappointed in the way the process was accelerated," Webb said. "I believe we had a process in place and to preempt it shows a disrespect for the people in the military.

"Ideally the survey would be in place before we legislate," Webb said. "Congress is jumping ahead despite the need to have some resolution on the issue."

The repeal wouldn't go into effect any earlier than 60 days after enactment and Mullen said a plan for implementation would likely take longer. Mullen, Defense Department Secretary Robert Gates and the Obama administration will determine how to best install the changes. President Barack Obama has called for an end to the policy.

When it gets implemented is "still in play" in ways that "makes this review in collecting the information and understanding what's going on at the death plate level from our troops and our families that much more critical," Mullen said. "We will complete that review and certainly incorporate what we learned from that into implementation when that time comes."

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell said Sunday he supports the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy as long as military leaders are allowed to weigh in on the change.

"I'm personally of the view now that attitudes and have changed and i think it's perfectly acceptable to get rid of the law and the policy," said Powell, also a former secretary of State, said on ABC's "This Week." "But before we actually do it we have to hear clearly from the officers, the men and women who are in charge of executing this policy."

Powell backed the ban on gays serving openly when it was implemented in the 1990s and when he was President Bill Clinton's top military adviser.

Powell said the military should have time to study the issue before implementing a new policy, siding with Mullen and Gates. He said it was important to listen to troops who will be affected.

Powell cautioned policy makers not to underestimate issues such as domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage that were also dealt with when the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy began in 1993.

"How do we actually implement this in a way that strengthens the force?" Powell said.


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