Ideally, Mullen would have contented himself with that comment as he challenged Congress to dismantle the hypocritical and homophobic policy it adopted 16 years ago, under which gays and lesbians may serve in the armed forces only if they keep their sexual orientation secret. Instead, however, Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced that they were going to conduct a study in which members of the military would be surveyed about how abolition of the policy should be implemented. It could take as long as a year to complete.
The study is as much a political strategy as an exercise in fact-finding, and it is driven by the reality that only Congress, not President Obama, has the authority to nullify the statute on which "don't ask, don't tell" is predicated. Evidently the administration sees the study as a kind of encirclement strategy, one that will show that attitudes in the military toward homosexuality have changed and thus isolate and put renewed pressure on congressional defenders of "don't ask, don't tell." (While the study is underway, rules likely would be revised to make it harder to discharge gay service members on the basis of third-party reports.)