Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Sunday that lifting the military's ban on open gay service would not seriously disrupt the armed services.

McHugh told the Army Times: “Anytime you have a broad-based policy change, there are challenges to that. The Army has a big history of taking on similar issues, [with] predictions of doom and gloom that did not play out.”

President Obama recently renewed his pledge to repeal the military ban, also known as “don't ask, don't tell.”

“We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford – for our military's integrity – to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie,” Obama told attendees at an October fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights advocate.

“So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end 'don't ask, don't tell.' That's my commitment to you.”

The policy allows gay and lesbian soldiers to work in the armed forces so long as they remain closeted about their sexual orientation and celibate.

McHugh is the highest-ranking Pentagon official to express support for repeal.

“What we're seeing is a tipping point in the opinions of both military and civilian leaders on this issue,” Dr. Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a California-based think tank, said in a statement. “The Army is the largest of the services and the most heavily involved in our wars abroad, and for Secretary McHugh to state clearly that it can handle repeal sends a strong signal to the other service secretaries that they can do the same.”

McHugh was tapped by Obama to become the civilian head of the Army. He is a former Republican representative from New York whose votes in Congress on gay rights most often aligned with his party. During the 110th Congress, McHugh received a low rating of 15 on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard, a survey that measures lawmakers' support for gay and lesbian rights based on their voting history.