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Army secretary backtracks: We’ll continue to enforce ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ as long as it’s the law

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Army Secretary John McHugh is backtracking on his promise not to discharge troops who tell him that they are gay.

McHugh said in a statement released Thursday that he was "incorrect" when he had said there would be a moratorium on dismissals while the Pentagon conducts a yearlong review on its "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Earlier this week, McHugh had said he wouldn't punish troops who admitted they were gay in private conversations with him, even though they technically violated the law.

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Statement by Army Secretary John McHugh

mchugh"Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding "Don't Ask Don't Tell", I made several statements that require further comment.

"First, while President Obama has asked Congress to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell", it is and remains the law of the land. As I have testified before Congress and Secretary Gates has made clear, the Department of the Defense will continue to apply the law, as we are obligated to do.

"Second, I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one. Further, the recent changes to implementing regulations authorized by Secretary Gates, which I support, apply the law in a fairer and more appropriate manner; they do not in any way create a moratorium of the law.

"Third, with regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on "Don't Ask Don't Tell", I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law. Because of the informal and random manner in which these engagements occurred, I am unable to identify these soldiers and I am not in a position to formally pursue the matter.

"Secretary Gates has committed to soliciting the views of men and women in uniform across the military, including those who are gay and lesbian, within the parameters of the review process he has established. The intra-department, intra-service working group, lead by Jeh Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense, and Gen. Carter Ham, commander, U.S. Army Europe, is working to determine the most effective and most comprehensive way to do this.  The working group is likely to utilize a third party from outside of the department to solicit these views so soldiers can speak candidly and without fear of separation. I urge every soldier to share his or her views and suggestions on this important issue through this channel. This is the appropriate way to do so.

I strongly support the deliberative process that Secretary Gates has established to review this important issue. Until Congress repeals "Don't Ask Don't Tell", it remains the law of the land and the Department of the Army and I will fulfill our obligation to uphold it.

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