A Navy deposition being circulated among committees on Capitol Hill claims that the court-ordered return of a gay sailor has reduced morale and caused disruptions in the service.

The deposition deals with the reinstatement of Keith Meinhold, a 12-year Navy veteran who was discharged after he announced on a television program that he is a homosexual."Generally, Meinhold's presence . . . has reduced morale, efficiency and mission focus within the command," Capt. Gregory Markwell, commanding officer of Meinhold's squadron, said in the deposition.

Markwell said some in the squadron have refused to fly with Meinhold, which is not a major problem but has forced commanding officers to spend more time coordinating schedules.

In fact, officials have spent more than 100 hours dealing with issues related to Meinhold's return, the captain said.

The distribution of the deposition to congressional committees came as Meinhold had been scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on the ban.

The hearings were postponed due to a scheduling conflict and complaints from Republicans that Meinhold was the only active duty military figure slated to appear before the panel.

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans hearings later this month on Clinton's proposal to end the 50-year-old prohibition on gays in the armed services.