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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Homeland Security

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Top General in Hot Water Over Gay Policy

March 25, 2010 - 11:31 AM | by: Justin Fishel

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Pentagon reporters Thursday it’s “inappropriate” for active duty officers to comment on potential changes to the law that bans gays from openly serving in the military. Those comments were a direct response to a March 8th letter written to the Stars and Stripesby Lieutenant General Benjamin Mixon, commanding general of the US Army Pacific, which clearly stated his opinion that most servicemembers are opposed to repealing the policy.

In the letter Mixon wrote: “It is often stated that most servicemembers are in favor of repealing the policy. I do not believe that is accurate.”  He went on to say, “Now is the time to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.”

Mixon served previously in Iraq as commander of Multi-National Forces in the north.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who sat next to Secretary Gates at a Pentagon press briefing, said the issue is being addressed within the chain of command. “I’ve spoken with General Casey [Army Chief of Staff] specifically about this”, Mullen said. “Everyone from junior to senior will have an opportunity to comment and somebody in leadership position like that, understanding what the President’s strategic intent is clearly… I consider that letter was not appropriate.”

This comes as Secretary Gates announced changes he’s approved to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that he believes will enforce of the law in a more “fair” and “appropriate” manner.

The changes, effective immediately, will raise the required rank of the officer who is able to initiate and conduct inquiries into a servicemembers’ alleged homosexuality.  They would also require anyone who provides information that could lead to an inquiry to testify under oath.  The changes will also put added scrutiny on third party who may be motivated to harm a servicemember by bringing attention to his sexuality.

Gates said about the letter from Mixon that he would disapprove even if it was written about an entirely different issue.

An Army official who spoke to Fox News on background said “it’s not so much Mixon’s opinion that was objectionable, rather it was the way he chose to share it.” Had Mixon written a letter and sent it up his chain of command through official channels, Gates and Mullen would probably not have been upset, this official said. Instead, Mixon chose to publish his thoughts on the “Stars and Stripes” website without warning.

General Casey is expected to release a statement Thursday afternoon expressing his agreement with Gates and Mullen that the letter was inappropriate.

Mullen’s message to those in uniform who have a problem with the current policy direction was simple: ”vote with your feet” – another way of saying you are free to resign.

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