Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to outline changes in how the military enforces “don't ask, don't tell” this week. The 1993 policy forbids gay troops from serving openly.

During a press briefing Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates is likely to announce a “way ahead” on “don't ask” later this week.

Gates first floated the idea of softening the military's implementation of the ban last June, a day after President Obama reaffirmed his pledge to repeal the law

Speaking aboard a military plane on its way to Germany, Gates told reporters that the Pentagon was looking into ways to make its ban “more humane.”

“One of the things we're looking at is, is there flexibility in how we apply this law,” he said, according to a transcript released by the Department of Defense.

“What we have is a law – be it a policy or regulation – and as I discovered when I got into it, it's a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave much to the imagination for a lot of flexibility.”

Gates questioned the need to take action against service members when they've been outed out of vengeance or after being jilted.

“If someone is outed by a third party … does that force us to take an action?” he asked.

“That's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed,” Gates added.

Testifying before Congress in February, Gates reiterated the need to alter implementation of the policy while lawmakers consider repeal.

“We believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Both houses of Congress have introduced legislation that would repeal the law.

The Pentagon's top brass, including Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have publicly announced they support President Obama's pledge to end the policy, but service chiefs from the various armed forces have testified against repeal or have expressed trepidation.

Democratic lawmakers are facing louder demands from gay groups to repeal the law. Last week, three activists were arrested outside the White House protesting the policy.