The U.S.’s top two senior defense officials called for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” yesterday in an effort to move toward permitting openly homosexual individuals to serve without contest in the United States Military.

During his State of the Union address last Wednesday, President Obama called to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Implemented sixteen years ago, the law prohibits openly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals from serving in the armed forces. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday to detail how the military plans to repeal the ban over the next year.

Mullen is the first sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs to voice his dissatisfaction with the policy and support its repeal.

Executives at the UCSB Palm Center — a political think-tank that conducts extensive research on sexual orientation and military relations — said Mullen’s statement has far-reaching implications for an unprejudiced military.

“I think that Admiral Mullen’s statement was the strongest announcement from the highest ranking military officer in history,” Palm Center Deputy Executive Director Chris Neff said. “It was an absolute game changer.”

Government officials said that the complete process of repealing the law may take up to 12 months. Gates asked that the Pentagon advise the committee on the logistics of expected changes within 45 days.

Although effective change will take time, Gates said, the military will move forward immediately by relaxing enforcement of the law.

“The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it,” Gates said to the committee. “We have received our orders from the Commander-in-Chief and we are moving out accordingly. However, we also can only take this process so far as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress.”

Opponents of the policy switch denounced Obama’s plan, stating that its implementation would have negative effects on American military traditions.

“The military is a warrior culture for a reason — our service members wear the uniform to fight and win wars, not [to] serve as liberal social policy guinea pigs,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a prepared statement. “The sexual environment the President is seeking to impose upon the young men and women who serve this country is the antithesis of the successful war-fighting culture and as such should be rejected.”

Despite opposition to the plan to eliminate the discriminatory policy, Palm Center Senior Research Fellow Nathaniel Frank said that he expects a smooth transition.

“Fifty years of research shows that gays don’t undermine the military,” Frank said. “There’s lots of noise and anxiety about the change, but studies show that it doesn’t affect cohesion.”