By Ed O'Keefe
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 7:55 PM
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wants military leaders to start training troops about the formal end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in a "very few weeks," he said Thursday.
He said Pentagon officials are working on a three-part plan: overhauling applicable military personnel policy and benefits, providing training for top brass and military chaplains, and then formally instructing the nation's 2.2 million troops on the ban's repeal.
Troop training will be done "as expeditiously as we can," Gates said, but it will prove challenging, because "there's just a certain element of physics associated with the number of people involved in this process." He did not elaborate.
Gates made his comments at a Pentagon news conference on military spending cuts. They were his first public remarks on "don't ask, don't tell" since President Obama signed a law last month to end the ban on gays in the military.
Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel, has been instructed to draft changes to personnel policy and the Uniform Code of Military Justice and to complete the training of top military leaders, Gates said.
"So we're kind of approaching it with that - with that philosophy in mind," he said.
At the same briefing, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told troops that the ban remains in effect until training is complete and Obama formally certifies the repeal.
"Now's not the time to - to come out, if you will," Mullen said.