Pentagon 'don't ask don't tell' poll shows support for repeal

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lt. Dan Choi—an openly gay man in the Army—is an advocate of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Image: West Point Photography.
Arizona Senator John McCain opposes the change.
Image: Dan Raustadt.

Of 400,000 serving members of the United States military and their families surveyed, most do not believe reform of the rules on gays and lesbians serving in the military would affect morale, unit cohesion or military effectiveness. A survey conducted by The Pentagon has concluded only 30% believed that changing the law would have a negative effect. The report also noted that those who have served with people they know or suspect to be gay have found unit cohesion to not be a problem.

The report was produced by Jeh C. Johnson, chief counsel at the Pentagon, and General Carter F. Ham, an U.S. Army commander in Europe. Opposition to reform was highest amongst troops in combat units and among members of the United States Marine Corps, where 40% and 46% oppose changes to the policy respectively. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has stated that the survey shows that reform "would not be the wrenching, traumatic change many had feared" and asked the Senate to support an end to the current policy.

The current policy—often referred to as "don't ask, don't tell"—was passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and has led to the discharge of over 13,000 troops since 1994. A 2006 study by the University of California estimated that the cost of enforcing the policy is approximately $363 million, including the value of military training that is lost when a member of the armed services is sent home. Most other Western nations allow gay people to serve openly in the military.

Democratic leaders including President Barack Obama support repeal and hope to pass it before the Christmas break. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain believes that more scrutiny is needed before repeal during war-time. The authors of the report believe otherwise, stating that they "do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission."