Pentagon Says it's Safe to Overturn Gay Ban

A nearly year-long Pentagon study of the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military has concluded the risks associated with repealing the don't ask, don't tell policy are low.

However, a drilldown into the report shows some concerns about a hasty end to the 15-year policy.

According to an executive summary of the report released Tuesday, of the 115,052 people who responded to a confidential survey, 70 percent said they thought a repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy would not have a negative impact.

In addition, 92 percent said their experiences serving with co-workers they believed to be gay or lesbian were either "very good," "good" or "neither good nor poor."

The executive summary concludes there is a "widespread attitude among a solid majority of service members that repeal of don't ask, don't tell will not have a negative impact on their ability to conduct their military mission."

"A strong majority of those who answered the survey, more than two-thirds, do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a Tuesday press conference called to discuss the report.

But even as many in the military brass prepare for a new era, resistance to the ban remains strong among some quarters, most notably from within the Marines and military chaplains.

Between 40 and 60 percent of combat troops surveyed said gays openly serving in combat would be a bad idea. 58 percent of those in combat responding negatively were Marines.

Former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway has made clear in multiple interviews with the media that he and most Marines are against it and thought that it would harm combat effectiveness and unit cohesion. At one point, Conway even suggested separate quarters for gay service members.

His replacement, Gen. James Amos, agreed with Conway's assessment, saying at his confirmation hearing in September that the attitude among Marines is "predominantly negative" toward openly gay service members.

Responding to the survey results, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine combat veteran, accused the Pentagon of creating a survey whose "criteria and lines of questioning" were created to "reach a predetermined outcome."

“If anything, the survey results make a compelling case for keeping current policy in place and avoiding any type of distraction for our nation’s military and its combat mission,” Hunter said.  “When breaking down the specifics, more respondents answered unfavorably or remain uncertain about a policy change than those who favor repeal."

The report also directly addressed the controversial issue of privacy and cohabitation, specifically concerns about sharing bathrooms.  "The creation of a third and possibly fourth category of bathroom facilities and living quarters... would be a logistical nightmare, expensive, and impossible to administer," the reports says.

Gates ordered the militarywide review in February after President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union address that he wanted to repeal don't dsk, don't tell.

A working group, led by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and the top general at European Command, Gen. Carter Ham, organized and culled results from a survey sent to 400,000 active duty and reserve service members and their families.

The working group hired a confidential survey group to conduct the interviews. It was able to survey 296 homosexuals service members. Surveys also went out to more than 150,000 military spouses, 44,266 of whom responded.

The defense secretary acknowledged variances in the overall outcome of the survey when broken down to specific groups.

"Within the combat armed specialties and units, there is a higher level of discontent, of discomfort and resistance, to changing the current policy. Those findings and the potential implications for America's fighting forces remain a source of concern to the service chiefs and to me," Gates said.

He also agreed that a full-bore move toward an immediate repeal may create unintended consequences.

"If a court ordered us to do this tomorrow, I believe ... the risk to the force would be high if we had no time to prepare," he said, adding that the working group's "road map" for full repeal would succeed "assuming that the military is given sufficient time and preparation to get the job done right."

But noting that a repeal will be bumpy at first, he minimized future objections to a change in policy.

"If the Congress of the United States repeals this law, this is the will of the American people.  And you are the American military. And we will do this, and we will do it right," he added.

It's unclear how long the military would need to prepare for a repeal of the Clinton-era policy.

Earlier this year a California district judge ruled the don't ask, don't tell policy was unconstitutional and placed a temporary stay on its enforcement. The Supreme Court, however, overturned the stay, arguing the law should be kept in place while a federal appeals court examines the case.

A bill that included language to repeal don't ask, don't tell passed the House or Representatives during the summer but failed to clear the Senate.

Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are expected to testify on the report in front of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Thursday and Friday.

It's unclear whether or not Congress will vote on legislation before the end of the lame-duck session. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Sunday that there's no way the repeal would get the votes it needed during the abbreviated session.

Sources on Capitol Hill told Fox News that the issue was not brought up during a meeting Tuesday between congressional leaders and President Obama on legislative priorities.

All of the original NATO signatories except for the U.S. and Turkey allow gay service members. Among the countries that don't allow it are Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.