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The military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" (DADT) policy

Findings of, and reactions to, the study by the
Comprehensive Review Working Group 2010-DEC

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Findings of the DADT study:

The DADT policy is defined in Section 654 of Title 10 of the United States Code. The assignment of the Working Group was to:

  1. "Assess the impact of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, retention,
    and family readiness."

  2. "Recommend appropriate changes, if necessary, to existing regulations, policies, and guidance in the event of repeal."

  3. "Develop a plan of action to support implementation of a repeal of DADT."

The Working Group reported that it:

  • "... Solicited the views of nearly 400,000 active duty and reserve component Service members with an extensive and professionally-developed survey, which prompted 115,052 responses"one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military." 1

  • "Solicited the views of over 150,000 spouses of active duty and reserve component Service members, because of the influence and importance families play in the lives of Service members and their decisions to join, leave, or stay in the military, and received 44,266 responses."

  • "Created an online inbox for Service members and their families to offer their views, through which we received a total of 72,384 entries."

  • "Conducted 95 face-to-face 'information exchange forums' at 51 bases and installations around the world, where we interacted with over 24,000 Service members..."

  • "Conducted 140 smaller focus group sessions with Service members and their families."

  • "Solicited the views of the Service academy superintendents and faculty, Service chiefs of chaplains, and Service surgeons general."

  • "Solicited and received the views of various members of Congress."

  • "Engaged RAND to update its 1993 study, 'Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy'."

  • "Solicited and received the views of foreign allies, veterans groups, and groups both for and against repeal of the current law and policy."

  • "Solicited and received the comments of the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the Chiefs of each Service, on this report in draft form.

  • "... Heard the views and experiences of current and former Service members who are gay or lesbian.

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Results of the survey:

The Working Group suggested that the results of the survey are best represented by the answers to three questions:

  1. " When asked about how having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to 'work together to get the job done,' 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect."

  2. "When asked 'in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,' 69% of Service members reported that they had."

  3. " When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s 'ability to work together' was 'very good,' 'good,' or 'neither good nor poor'."

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Conclusions of the Working Group:

They concluded:

"Based on all we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer ..., the risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low. 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... Longer term, with a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism, and respect for all, we are convinced that the U.S. military can adjust and accommodate this change, just as it has others in history."

The "others in history" phrase apparently refers to the ending within the Services of racist segregation following World War II and of sex discrimination more recently.

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Reactions to the DADT study:

  • Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, interviewed in Stars and Stripes: "Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives. That’s the currency of this fight. I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction." More on his comments

  • Editorial, Chicago Tribune: " ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ isn’t fair. It also isn’t necessary. Three out of four Americans favour lifting the ban, according to an ABC/Washington Post survey; that’s up from 44 per cent when it was enacted in 1993. The fear at the time was that allowing gays to serve openly would hurt unit cohesiveness, but that, too, has faded. The ban was suspended during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and almost nobody noticed. The Defence Department’s own survey found that 69 per cent of military personnel believe they’ve already served alongside homosexuals. Less than 30 per cent felt lifting the ban would have a negative effect."

  • Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, in a news release: "The only thing that matters on the battlefield is the ability to do the job. Momentum is solidly on the side of ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Now it is up to the Senate to consign this failed and discriminatory law to the dustbin of history."

  • Ed O’Keefe and Jon Cohen, Washington Post: "Overall, 77 per cent of Americans say gays and lesbians who publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be able to serve in the military. . . . The support also cuts across partisan and ideological lines, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals, conservatives and white evangelical Protestants in favour of homosexuals’ serving openly."

  • Allahpundit, blogger at HotAir. com: "Marines cope daily with the ‘distraction’ of seeing their best friends shot to pieces, and yet . . . this is going to bother them to the point of absent-minded recklessness? ‘Intuitive behaviour’ is an issue in combat situations, but U.S. allies manage to do fine with gay troops and, again, Amos seems to have no theory of how troops’ intuition might be affected. Is he suggesting that gay soldiers wouldn’t rush to the aid of a wounded straight comrade, or vice versa?"

  • Adam Serwer, Washington Post: "There are gay Marines serving under Gen. Amos as we speak " they’re simply not doing so openly. Those Marines aren’t going to lose control of their libidos the moment they no longer have to serve in the closet. Among those Marines who believed they had already served in combat alongside gay and lesbian troops, 84 per cent said their ability to work together as a unit was not negatively affected. These are the kinds of results that led the Pentagon to conclude that its study revealed ‘a misperception that a gay man does not 'fit' the image of a good war fighter " a misperception that is almost completely erased when a gay Service member is allowed to prove himself alongside fellow war fighters.’ That finding mirrors what the military learned during the process of racial integration. It’s worth remembering " again " that opposition to integrating the military was much higher in the service than repealing DADT is now, with some surveys showing between 80 to 90 per cent of the service opposed."

  • Julie Marsh, The Stir (blog): "I’m never in favour of the courts acting in a legislative capacity. I don’t want this decision to come down to the courts. That’s not in the best interest of our military, and it sets a harmful precedent. But when our legislators fail to acknowledge the unconstitutionality of a law, it’s up to the courts to set them straight."

  • T-shirt worn by man at DADT repeal news conference: "You Don’t Have To Be Straight To Shoot Straight." 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Washington Post, 2010-NOV-30, at: This is a PDF file
  2. Sarah Barmak, "Talking Points: You don't have to be straight to shoot straight," Toronto Star, 2010-DEC-17, at:

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Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > Challenges > DADT policy > here

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-DEC-18
Latest update: 2010-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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