Defense Secretary Les Aspin on Wednesday brushed aside charges that President Clinton's new policy on homosexuals in the military will prompt scores of legal challenges.
"The proposal is essentially a sound compromise and probably more enforceable than the one we currently have," Aspin told the House Armed Services Committee.The proposal probably will be tested in the courts, he said. But, he argued, previous Defense Department regulations, including the one in place when Clinton took office, were ambiguous.
"It's not a credible attack to say it's headed for the courts," Aspin said.
The secretary was responding to a Republican critic of the plan, Rep. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who said all sides on the issue agree "this policy is headed for the courts. It's an admitted, troublesome aspect of the new policy."
Earlier in the day, the Defense Department's general counsel said the new policy leaves grounds for discharge unchanged.
Jamie Gorelick sought to clarify the confusion that surfaced for members of Congress Tuesday over what behavior would be grounds for a commander to investigate under the new policy.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., the Senate Armed Services Committee's chairman, recited a litany of statements, and whether those would require a servicemember to rebut a presumption of homosexuality.
A statement such as "I am homosexual" would place the burden of proof on the servicemember to convince a commander it is not so. "I am gay," "I am lesbian," "I am bisexual," Nunn said, and Gorelick said those also applied.
Nunn said he hoped to write legislation in next year's defense bill consistent with the president's policy.
The Joint Chiefs, who testified before Nunn's committee Tuesday, were to testify before the House Armed Services Committee Wed-nes-day.
Gen. Colin Powell defended the policy Tuesday as acceptable and workable. "I believe this is the right answer," Powell said.
"If a person is homosexual, they would be much more comfortable pursuing another profession than the military," Aspin acknowledged Tuesday.
Still, he described the president's plan as progress for homosexuals. "The policy before was `don't tell.' What's new is `don't ask' and `don't pursue,' " Aspin said.