Don’t spin ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

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I was disappointed to read the mischaracterization of the Defense Department (DOD) survey that appeared in your Jan. 19 article titled “Lawmaker wants OK from service chiefs in lifting of ‘Don’t Ask.’ ” The article claimed that “two-thirds of troops don’t care if the ban is lifted.” Where is support for this assertion?

The majority of troops did not indicate that they supported repeal of the 1993 law, which is always mislabeled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That was impossible because the question pointedly was not asked in the DOD survey instruments.

The administration has tried to have it both ways - claiming that the DOD survey was not intended to be a “referendum” of the troops, while simultaneously allowing media reports to claim that it was. The truth is that military personnel and families who supported the current law were not given an equal opportunity to have their views respected and reported. None of the Pentagon’s Working Group survey instruments included the basic question of interest to members of Congress: Should the 1993 law be retained or repealed?

Instead, the troops were limited to suggesting remedies for irresolvable problems, which could be avoided by simply retaining the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. Despite that constraint - which was deliberately imposed in focus group discussions - the Working Group report conceded on Page 49, “Our sense is that the majority of views expressed were against repeal of the current policy.”

Page 74 of the Working Group report indicated that “Nearly 60 percent of respondents in the Marine Corps and in Army combat arms said they believed there would be a negative impact on their unit’s effectiveness in this context; among Marine combat arms the number was 67 percent.” In addition, responses indicated that more than a third of experienced close-combat troops would decline re-enlistment or consider leaving the armed forces.

The DOD survey question that is usually cited in this context asked about personal or work relationships with persons known to be homosexual. Most people, including me, know and like persons who are homosexual among friends, colleagues or family. The innocuous question about personal relationships, however, did not ask respondents the key question: Should the law be repealed or retained?

Furthermore, the Pentagon spin on that question lumped together 18 percent “positive or very positive” responses with a 32 percent category identified as “equally positively or negatively” (whatever that means), plus 19 percent expecting “no effect.” The misleading combination obscured the large 29.6 percent group predicting negative effects. Viewing the data differently, responses indicated that 62 percent of military respondents expected at least some negative effects from repeal, while only 36 percent predicted only positive or no effects. Indeed, the Family Research Council has reported that every question that the DOD asked found that service members expect more negative consequences than positive ones. The Working Group report did not mention a single result of repeal that would improve the all-volunteer force in any way.

Due to the reckless lame-duck session rush to repeal the law, the House Armed Services Committee had no opportunity to have hearings on the Pentagon’s misrepresented survey findings and problematic, unrealistic recommendations. When hearings do occur, all of the military service chiefs should be asked about dozens of still-unresolved thorny issues.

In the future, I hope that The Washington Times will provide more complete and balanced information about the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgendered law that Congress rushed to impose on our military, disregarding the negative impact on combat troops whose views deserved more respect.

ELAINE DONNELLY

President

Center for Military Readiness

Livonia, Mich.

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