The Pentagon released the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell report this afternoon. And while the report is being spun as evidence that permitting openly homosexual men and women to serve in the military wouldn’t impact effectiveness or morale, not everyone agrees — or thinks that the report shows that to be the case.
“They never asked the question whether the law should be retained or repealed,” says Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “They framed these questions in the way that support for the current law was not even allowed to be said.”
Donnelly also pointed to the fact that among Army and Marine combat troops, nearly 50 and 60 percent respectively thought that working with an openly gay or lesbian service member would have a negative or very negative effect on their unit’s ability to work together and trust one another.
Those concerns were echoed by a National Guard sergeant, who asked to remain anonymous. “Most of the Army is dedicated to paper-pushing,” he wrote. “Only about 10 percent of our Active troops are combat-arms troops like myself. Having a gay soldier work with you in an office environment? Sure, why not? It’s similar to any other office environment in the world. Having a gay soldier driving your gun truck in the middle of Afghanistan? Ehhhh, maybe not so cool.”
The sergeant also noted that he had chosen not to respond to the survey because the military had ignored soldiers’ opinions in the past. “The Pentagon brass has pushed women in combat, in violation of federal law, has put women on submarines and combat vessels, and done lots of other things that the troops didn’t care for,” he wrote. “Why would they listen to us this time? Plus, I’d really rather not have a black mark on my digital record out there that says ‘distrusts gay servicemembers — possible homophobe/bigot.’”
Kieran Michael Lalor, the founder of Iraq Veterans for Congress, criticized the report for asking the wrong question, saying “the question is does it [ending DADT] help?”
“Why are we working on this social experiment in the military? Why are those resources being committed to this? What is the benefit?” Lalor says, arguing that the Pentagon should direct this energy to finding new ways to reduce casualties.
Lalor also argues that the report’s finding that 92 percent of service members who had worked with a suspected homosexual co-worker described the experience as very good, good or neither good nor poor is justification of DADT. “Under the current policy, yeah, we had homosexuals serving with us and it wasn’t a problem. That’s a validation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Donnelly’s conclusion is that the report doesn’t bolster proponents of ending DADT. “There is nothing in this report that says anything beneficial would come from repeal of the law,” she says. “So where’s the trade off? If there is a risk of any size, where is the benefit that justifies that risk? We have here the two top leaders saying a risk should be justified. Because the president made a political promise. That’s it. That’s not a good enough reason.”
“I think they’re taking advantage of our military’s can do attitude,” says Lalor. “No matter what comes down the road, we’ll be able to accomplish the mission. Of course they [service members] can. That’s to our credit. That doesn’t mean it’s making their jobs any easier.”