WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates says a study on allowing gays to serve openly in the military must involve troops without ensnaring them in the political debate.

In a memo outlining the parameters of the upcoming study, Gates
says that "given the political dimension of this issue" that it
is important to, in his words, "shield our men and women in
uniform and their families from those aspects of this debate."

The internal assessment is the first of its kind since 1993,
when Congress passed a law banning gay service members from
acknowledging that they are gay and the Pentagon adopted its
"don't ask, don't tell" policy based on that law.

Gates says he wants to ensure changes in the policy won't hurt
military effectiveness.

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