MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Today, Pentagon officials offered some details about how they plan to implement the end of "don't ask, don't tell." Congress repealed the ban on gays in the military late last year. The ban is still in place for now and it will stay that way until the secretary of Defense certifies that enough troops have been trained to deal with the policy change. Secretary Robert Gates said he expects that to happen sometime this year.
Joining us now from the Pentagon is NPR's Rachel Martin. And, Rachel, what is the Pentagon's plan to make this happen?
RACHEL MARTIN: Well, Michele, it's really an elaborate training program. The Pentagon says it wants each and every member of the military to go through some kind of sensitivity training that will essentially describe the policy changes that are going to take place, and what's expected of them in order to make these changes possible.
NORRIS: What do we know about the training that the service men and women are going to have to go through? When does it start and what is it going to consist of?
MARTIN: We're told that training materials are going to be finalized by next week and ready to roll out. But it's really going to be up to each service to decide how to use the training materials to best suit their own needs. But we know that they will include the usual military training tools: videos, PowerPoint slides, but also some case-specific scenarios meant to provoke conversations.
Everything from - what do you do if you're a commander and you see one of your subordinates coming out of a gay nightclub? Or what if you overhear people in your unit making inappropriate gay jokes or using gay slurs?
NORRIS: What does the military say about how a commander should handle that kind of situation?
MARTIN: Well, in terms of the gay bar scenario, the policy says it's irrelevant - where a service member spends his or her free time is really up to them. And as long as it doesn't violate the military standards of conduct - and going to a gay bar wouldn't - then it's fine.
Now, as far as those jokes are concerned, that's a larger issue and it speaks really to the command climate. The policy is clear, that disrespecting any service member isn't tolerated. And that includes references or jokes about someone's sexual identity.
Clifford Stanley talked about this today. He's the undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, and he's in charge of figuring out to implement all of this. And he said the key to making this policy change is setting an example from the top down. Let's take a listen.
Major General CLIFFORD STANLEY (Under Secretary, Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense): Leadership, professionalism, discipline and respect are supposed to be there now, and should be there even when repeal is effective. And so, what I'm saying is that this is about leadership. And it's not about a specific thing or changing policies that apply to this current discussion.
MARTIN: Interesting also to note, Michele, that the Pentagon has said that they're not expecting to change people's attitudes when it comes to homosexuality. They want to change people's behaviors, and that's what the training emphasis is going to be.
NORRIS: And as for changing their behavior, there are issues that will certainly surface on military property, certainly on bases. What about dealing with partners of gay troops? Did they clarify any changes to housing, or benefits, or things like that?
MARTIN: The Pentagon did address this and they have been clear that there will be no special housing for gay troops. There will also be no special benefits for gay partners. They're following the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which explicitly does not recognize gay marriage. Although Pentagon officials do point out that there are several benefits, including life insurance, where a service member can name anyone as their beneficiary. And there's nothing saying that they couldn't name a gay partner as that beneficiary.
NORRIS: We noted that this might take place some time this year. Do you have anymore specific sense of a timeline?
MARTIN: Well, that's what Secretary Gates wants to happen. He says it's important to move with urgency. But it's really going to be a judgment call on his part. As soon as he's thinks enough troops have been trained and it's moving smoothly, then he'll certify the change. But then it takes another 60 days until the law is officially changed.
So Pentagon officials have made it clear that until that point, Don't Ask Don't Tell is still in place. And that means someone could get discharged for openly coming out as a homosexual.
NORRIS: Rachel, I've got to let you go but I've got one last, very quick question. Is some of this training happening in theater?
MARTIN: It definitely will happen in theater. Pentagon officials weren't clear about exactly when someone sitting on a base in Helmand Province will get this training. But they will get it.
NORRIS: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: You're welcome.
NORRIS: That's NPR's Rachel Martin at the Pentagon.
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