A strong majority, or two-thirds, of U.S. service members surveyed by the Pentagon did not object to gays serving in the military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
However, Gates added that between 40 and 60 percent of troops serving in male-dominated specialty combat operations predicted the repeal of the ban would have a negative effect in their units, prompting Gates to acknowledge that military chiefs were "less sanguine" about the possibility of a repeal than the authors of the study.
The report analyzing the impact the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would have on troop morale was delivered to Congress Tuesday, a day ahead of its original deadline.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the current policy that allows gays to serve in the U.S. military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private.
Gates, presenting the findings of the report with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, said that although a repeal of the controversial law comes with the risk of short-term disruption within military ranks, there would not be the "wrenching traumatic change" that some had feared.
Mullen, who supported Gates' insistence that repeal come by way of legislation in Congress -- not through the courts -- said the change in policy would be done smoothly by "managing the implementation process."
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the report on Wednesday. Witnesses will include Gates, Mullen, and the co-chairs of the Comprehensive Review Working Group -- Jeh C. Johnson, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, and General Carter Ham, Commander of the U.S. Army Europe.
Also expected to testify during the two-day hearing were the heads of all U.S. Forces including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Naval Operations Chief Gary Roughead, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos.
A study conducted by Pew Research ahead of the report's release found that just over half of Americans -- 58 percent -- said they favored allowing gays to serve openly in the military, while 27 percent said they were opposed.