Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pentagon Study Recommends Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The Department of Defense has released the long-awaited findings of its study on how best to implement repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  You can view the findings of the study here and all of the study-related news here, but here are the most important bits:

Fast Facts:
  • The study received survey responses from 115,052 servicemembers and 44,266 military spouses, and another 72,384 online comments from servicemembers and their families. The 68-member working group held 95 in-person forums with 24,000 servicemembers at 51 military installations, and held 140 smaller focus groups.
  • 70% of servicemembers said repeal would have a positive, mixed, or no effect on unit cohesion and readiness.  A "significant majority" of 30% expressed negative views or concerns with regards to repeal
  • 69% of servicemembers said they believed they had worked with someone who is gay. Of those who knew they had worked with a gay person, 92 percent said their experience was very good, good, or neither good nor poor.
  • 74% of spouses said repeal would have no bearing on whether they wanted their spouse to stay in the military; 12% who said they would want their spouse to leave sooner.
Conclusions:

From the Executive Summary:
"Our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer below, 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, just as it has others in history."
Recommendations for Repeal:

Courtesy of the Huffington Post:
  • Repeal needs to have "strong leadership, a clear message, and proactive education." Commanders in the field need to be equipped with the proper education and training tools to educate the force on the changes.
  • Military does not need to establish an extensive set of new standards of conduct for repeal, but does need to issue guidance making clear that all standards of conduct apply uniformly, without regard to sexual orientation.
  • A large number of servicemembers expressed religious and moral objections to homosexuality. While the report's co-authors noted that these concerns should not be dismissed, members of the U.S. military already serve alongside people of different faiths and values. An important message of repeal needs to be servicemembers "will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs; they must, however, continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs."
  • Certain benefits should be accorded to same-sex partners and families of gay servicemembers, although full benefits cannot be legally extended because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For ones that are not barred by this law, the report's co-authors recommend "the benefit be refashioned to become a member-designated one -- in other words, to give the Service member, gay or straight, the discretion to designate whomever he or she wants as beneficiary."
  • Servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT should be allowed to apply for re-entry.
Reactions:

President Barack Obama:
"As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.

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. 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. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this 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. 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."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates:
“In my view, getting this category right is the most important thing we must do. The U.S. armed forces are in the middle of two major military overseas campaigns – a complex and difficult drawdown in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan – both of which are putting extraordinary stress on those serving on the ground and their families. It is the well-being of these brave young Americans, those doing the fighting and the dying since 9/11, that has guided every decision I have made in the Pentagon since taking this post nearly four years ago. It will be no different on this issue.

I am determined to see that if the law is repealed, the changes are implemented in such a way as to minimize any negative impact on the morale, cohesion and effectiveness of combat units that are deployed, or about to deploy to the front lines.

In my view, the concerns of combat troops as expressed in the survey do not present an insurmountable barrier to successful repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.' This can be done and should be done without posing a serious risk to military readiness. However, these findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive and potentially dangerous impact on the performance of those serving at the tip of the spear in America’s wars."
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mike Mullen, who called the study's recommendations "solid, defensible conclusions":
“For the first time, the [service] chiefs and I have more than just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our civilian leaders. We all have our opinions, and those opinions matter.

This is without question a complex social and cultural issue. But at the end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we in uniform have an obligation to follow orders.  When those orders involve significant change such as this would, we need to find ways to lead the way forward. Our troops and their families expect that from us, and I think the American people do as well."
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:
"This issue has been studied for fifty years, including by the military itself, and the results from over twenty-two studies are uniform: open service does not harm effectiveness. The small handful of Senators blocking repeal no longer have any fig leaves behind which to hide. The time for repeal is now.

America’s men and women in uniform are professionals who already serve with gays and lesbians and repeal will do nothing to change their dedication to protecting our nation. Senators who said they want to hear from military leaders and troops now have their answers. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will allow every qualified man and woman to serve without sacrificing the high standards that have made our military great."
Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson:
“This thorough and comprehensive report makes clear to lawmakers and the American people once and for all that the U.S. military is capable of handling the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The questions are now answered and the debate is now settled.  It’s now up to the Senate to bring the defense authorization bill back to the floor, allow 10 to 20 amendments to be debated on each side, and get this bill passed. We have the votes now if the process is fair.”
How to Get Involved:

While the Pentagon findings certainly bolster the campaign for repeal, there are still moderate Democrats and Republicans who need to be pressured to support repeal.  Please pick up your phones and call these Senators, as well as the White House to let Obama know he needs to keep lobbying the Senate.

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

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