DADT Report Says Letting Openly Gay Troops Serve Won't Hurt Military

By Boyce Hinman

Reinforcing what LGBT veterans, active duty service members and activists have long been saying, a long-awaited Pentagon review of the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is showing that allowing openly gay or lesbian troops to serve in the military would have little lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces.

“Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families — more than two thirds — are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian,” said President Obama in a released statement. “This report also confirms that, by every measure — from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness — we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.”


The U.S. Department of Defense released two documents on Nov. 30, concerning the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. One is a report of the results of a survey of members of the U.S. armed services. This survey asked whether or not service personnel think allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the armed services would be disruptive to those services.

The second document outlines a proposed way of implementing an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).

The report notes that the survey was sent to almost 400,000 service members and their families, and 215,052 people responded to it. It notes that the Department of Defense made affirmative efforts to reach and get the opinions of present and former gay and lesbian service members. 296 self identified gays or lesbians took part in the survey.

Surveyors also used individual interviews and group discussions among service members, and other methods, to get as much accurate information as possible.

The report states that, "We conclude that, while a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will likely, in the short term, bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting, and can be adequately addressed by the recommendations we offer".

The report went on to say, "Both the survey results and our own engagement of the force convinced us that when Service members had the actual experience of serving with someone they believe to be gay, in general unit performance was not affected negatively by this added dimension."

One of the most fundamental objections to ending DADT has been that it would prevent unit cohesion and thus impair the military's ability to complete its mission.

One finding in the report directly challenges that assertion. The report notes that, 69 percent of Service members reported that they had served with a Service member whom they think was a homosexual. Of those, 92 percent stated that the unit's "ability to work together" was "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor." Only eight percent of them said that the effect of having a homosexual in the unit was poor or very poor.

Here are some other survey results found in the report:

- 70 percent of Service members predicted ending DADT would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

- 74 percent said the end of DADT would have no effect on their decision on whether or not to re-enlist. Only 12 percent said it would effect that decision.

- 15-20 percent said repeal would have a positive effect.

- Only 30 percent of Service members overall expressed some concern about the repeal of DADT. However, 40-60 percent in the Marine Corps and in various combat arms specialties said ending DADT would have a negative impact on the armed services. The report notes that this percentage of negative responses should be taken seriously, but says the plan they propose addresses that issue.

The document proposing a plan for the end of DADT is very comprehensive, (it's 95 pages long). It describes several stages to implementing the change.

- Stage One would begin prior to the enactment of the law to end DADT. In this stage, "the Department of Defense and the Services would continue to review existing policies and issuances affected by repeal, and prepare new or revised issuances based on the recommendations in the report".

If the Secretary of Defense approves these issuances, "The Department of Defense and the Services would also develop education and training materials and communications plans that would be used in the implementation stage".

- Stage Two, the implementation stage, would begin once Congress passes legislation ending the DADT policy. Once that happens, "Education and training programs necessary to prepare the force for repeal and to communicate the upcoming policy changes would be executed." And "Upon the effective date of repeal, the Department of Defense and the Services would put any new or revised policies into effect."

- Stage Three would be the "sustaining stage." In this stage, follow-up would be done in order to monitor implementation and make adjustments to the policy as needed.

The plan describes, in great detail, what would be done in each of the above stages.

These two documents provide a giant step forward towards the goal of ending the Don't Ask, Don't tell policy. Further action, however, hinges on Congress ending the policy.

“With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all,” said the president in his statement. “The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation.  Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally.  Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.

You may see copies of the two documents discussed here by clicking here, and then clicking on the links at the bottom of the web based version of this article.

Boyce Hinman is the founder of the California Communities United Institute. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or calcomui.org

 

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