A member of the House of Representatives has said that the American military is more scared of lesbians than terrorists.

Gary Ackerman, from New York, was questioning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a Congressional committee into 2008 State Department budget.

The Congressman was questioning the current military policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” whereby gay, bisexual or lesbians can serve in the Armed Forces as long as they conceal their orientation.

“The military has gone around and fired a whole bunch of people who speak foreign languages – Farsi and Arabic, etc.,” Ackerman said.

“For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are (of) terrorists, but they’re very brave with the terrorists.

“If the terrorists ever got hold of this information, they’d get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad.”

Congressman Ackerman suggested to Ms Rice that as the Army was sacking much-needed translators for being gay, her department could hire them instead.

A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who “had . . . skills in a foreign language that Department of Defence had considered to be especially important.

Secretary Rice dodged the question, telling the committee that the State Department had significantly increased the number of staff who speak Middle Eastern languages.

Sharon Alexander, deputy director of policy for Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, commented:

“Considering the critical shortage of linguists in the armed forces, a platoon of Arabic-speaking lesbians may be just what the military needs.

“In fact, faced with the shortage of language experts, the military would do well to consider Congressman Ackerman’s point. We cannot afford to lose critical personnel because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“There are many brave gay men and lesbians who report for duty every day, and their contributions are immeasurably important to our national security.”

A poll of Americans released earlier this week revealed that nearly half do not support the current US military policy of barring openly gay people from serving.

The Harris Interactive survey, conducted last month, found that 55% of the 2,337 people questioned felt openly gay, bisexual or lesbian personnel should be allowed to serve, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Only 18% of respondents said that gay people should not be allowed to be in the Armed Forces at all.

Last month an Army general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military has called for a change in attitude towards gay and lesbian soldiers.

John Shalikashvili was chairman from 1993 – 1997, and it was during his tenure that the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was introduced.

Conversations with gay service members, “showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers,” he said.

Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the gay ban, according to the Department of Defence.