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WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials said Friday that the service chiefs gave their full support to repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law before the president issued final orders ending the controversial law.

Maj. Gen. Steven Hummer, chief of staff of the Defense Department’s repeal implementation team, said that nearly all servicemembers will be trained on what to expect post repeal by mid-August, and that military leaders are confident the change can be made with little disruption to the force.

“There have been no distractions for unit cohesion that have been reported,” he told reporters on Friday.

Earlier that day, President Barack Obama and Pentagon leaders certified that the military is ready for repeal, setting the stage for openly gay troops to begin serving in the military in late September.

The certification comes after months of training for military personnel to prepare them for the presence of openly gay uniformed colleagues for the first time in history, and starts the 60-day waiting period before the law is completely removed.

“As of Sept. 20, servicemembers will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country,” Obama said in a statement. “Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”

Hummer and Pentagon officials said they’ll continue to review military regulations and policies over the next 60 days to ensure a smooth transition. Troops previously booted from the service under the law will be allowed to reapply, and commanders have received instructions not to segregate housing or bathrooms on the basis of sexual orientation.

Conservative lawmakers criticized the certification decision, calling it the final step in a flawed repeal process.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said the brief comments from the president and Pentagon leaders haven’t addressed concerns “that the combat readiness of our force could be placed at risk, particularly those serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Last year, department surveys of servicemembers found concerns among combat troops that openly gay colleagues could distract from mission focus and hurt unit cohesion.

But Hummer dismissed those concerns on Friday, saying that follow-up training and discussions with those troops found no serious problems. Some troops had questions about changes to housing rules and sexual harassment regulations, but those concerns were not widespread.

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @LeoShane


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