The US military is looking to foreigners to fill its ranks while still refusing to recruit openly gay Americans.

The Pentagon has reportedly approved a pilot programme that could see it temporarily contracting around 1,000 foreign nationals living in the US – as long as they are heterosexual.

Military leaders have publicly admitted that they are facing staff shortages, despite regularly firing gay and lesbian personnel under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

“The pilot will address health care professionals holding needed medical specialties (physicians and nurses) and people with skills in certain strategic foreign languages and cultures, qualifications important to present and future military operations,” said the Pentagon in a statement.

According to information released by various military departments, 11,704 lesbian or gay staff members were fired between 1994 and 2006 as a result of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

A 2005 report revealed that the US military had dismissed 322 language specialists – described as “especially important” – because of their sexual orientation.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised that he will work with military leaders to remove the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban on gay personnel, but a spokesperson has said that a timeline for this has not yet been established.

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