Majority of Military Personnel Support Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

This afternoon the Department of Defense released the ‘Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

The report found that the majority of military personnel and their families support ending "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the policy which currently bans gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces, and that the risk to military effectiveness of doing so is low.

The report and its authors were tasked with two objectives: assess the impact of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, and retention, as well as recommend appropriate changes, if necessary, to existing policies in the event of repeal.

The reports findings are based on a number of sources, including:

  • A survey of over 115,000 military personnel and over 44,000 of their spouses
  • The views of 72,384 Service members and their families submitted through an online inbox
  • 95 face-to-face "information exchange forums” at 51 bases and installations around the world and 140 smaller focus group sessions with Service members and their families
  • The views and experiences of current and former Service members who are gay or lesbian.
  • The views of the Service academy superintendents and faculty, Service chiefs of chaplains, and Service surgeons general; 
  • The views of various members of Congress;

The report found:

"…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 below.  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.”

 Detailed findings of the report include:

  • 70% of Service members predicted that the having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would have "a positive, mixed, or no effect” on the unit’s ability to "work together to get the job done”.
  • 69% of Service members reported that they have "worked in a unit with a co-worker who [they] believed to be homosexual”.
  • 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.”

In addition, when asked about their experiences of serving in a unit with a co-worker how they believed was gay or lesbian, 89% of those in Army combat arms units and 84% for those in Marine combat arms units reported that the unit’s "ability to work together” was "very good,” "good,” or "neither good nor poor.”

Alongside the report, the authors published a Support Plan for Implementation of the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” focused on:

"Leadership: The clear message from the Working Group’s assessment is "leadership matters most ”. Leaders at all levels of the chain of command set the example for members in the unit and must be fully committed to DoD policy to sustain unit effectiveness, readiness, and cohesion.

Professionalism: Leaders must emphasize Service members’ fundamental professional obligations and the oath to support and defend the Constitution that is at the core of their military service. In the profession of arms, adherence to military policy and standards of conduct is essential to unit effectiveness, readiness, and cohesion.

Respect: Unit strength depends on the strength of each member. We achieve that strength by treating each member with respect." 

Speaking at the launch of the report, Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fully endorsed the findings of the report and the implementation plan.

Following publication the Secretary of Defense, and Admiral Mullen, both urged Congress to act to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Speaking to the press, Secretary Gates warned that not to do so could lead to the courts ending "don’t ask, don’t tell” immediately and without giving the military the time needed to enact the support plan for implementation leading to a possible higher risk to military effectiveness.

The President today repeated his commitment to ending "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, adding:

"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."

You can read both the report and the implementation plan online here.

Secretary Gates, Chief Mullen, and Honorable Jeh C. Johnson and General Carter F. Ham, USA, will give evidence on the report’s findings to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.