A spokesperson for the US Department of Defence has confirmed a report that Air Force officials proposed developing a gay conversion chemical weapon in 1994.

The proposal, part of a plan from Wright Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was to develop “chemicals that effect (sic) human behaviour so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely effected (sic).

“One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behaviour.”

The Pentagon has said the proposal was never implemented.

Details of the “gay weapon” were revealed by Project Sunshine, a watchdog group which monitors chemical and biological warfare agent development.

The Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a group that fights the current “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy towards gay, lesbian and bisexuals in the American armed forces, drew attention to the Air Force plan last week.

“The Air Force’s proposal is delusional, homophobic and offensive” said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of the SLDN.

“The assertion that a gay opponent would be somehow less effective in combat is outrageous. No one questioned the battle prowess of Alexander the Great because of his sexual orientation.”

The US military is in the middle of a recruitment crisis, with troops fighting two foreign wars and President Bush sending more soldiers to Iraq.

Figures released by the Pentagon show that the American armed forces are resorting to accepting thousands of convicted criminals into their ranks.

A recruitment crisis has forced the Army and others to lower their standards, while continuing to discharge hundreds of personnel for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

A report in yesterday’s New York Times revealed that last year alone 8,129 “moral waivers” were granted – a mechanism which allows someone with a criminal record to enlist in the military.

They represent a tenth of new recruits last year. The US military has already raised the maximum enlistment age and dropped the basic educational standards required of recruits.

In 1992 President Bill Clinton promised to open the military to openly gay and lesbian people during his successful campaign for President, but caved into pressure from the Army – the compromise was the current policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

The policy means gay, bisexual or lesbians can serve in the Armed Forces as long as they conceal their orientation.

Recently a former Army general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US called for a change in attitude towards gay and lesbian soldiers, as did former Defence Secretary William Cohen.

Earlier this month New York congressman mocked the current policy. During a House hearing Gary 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.”

SLDN figures show that the US military has discharged over 11,000 personnel for being gay or lesbian since 1993.