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Pentagon Survey Finds “Minimal and Isolated Risk” from DADT Repeal to Current War Efforts

The Pentagon survey that will be released December 1 will show, according to informed sources, that repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy would create only “minimal and isolated risk” to the current war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report’s authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.

One source, who has read the report in full, summarized its findings in a series of conversations this week. The source declined to state his position on whether or not to lift the ban, insisting it did not matter. He said he felt compelled to share the information out of concern that groups opposed to ending the ban would mischaracterize the findings. The long, detailed and nuanced report will almost certainly be used by opponents and supporters of repeal legislation to bolster their positions in what is likely to be a heated and partisan congressional debate.

The report claims that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen received drafts of the Pentagon survey last week. Mullen did not betray that in an interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne yesterday at UCLA. He said that “the survey will inform my view on how we proceed with implementation, should the law change.” However, he did state firmly his previous personal belief that the military, an institution that is “all about integrity,” should have to force young men and women to lie about who they are. He said that the military would adapt to the change in policy, if it comes, and would implement the changes smoothly.

Most respondents to the survey raised no strong objections to serving with openly gay service members. Only the Marines showed significant resistance to the idea, which I believe is a function of their leadership being opposed, with Gen. Conway and now with Gen. Amos.

The military faces another problem if they continue with the ban on gay service members. The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, greeted Admiral Mullen yesterday with this front-page story, about how the following of DADT by the local ROTC group on campus violates the policies of the University of California system prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Asked about that policy at UCLA, Mullen said that it’s important for the military to be represented at educational institutions, and that historically, the policy has been a reason why ROTC organizations haven’t gotten in on certain campuses. He says the decision with respect to ROTC is up to the University President and the leadership.

Mullen made no news on whether Congress should take up repeal in the defense authorization bill in the lame duck session. “It’s difficult to predict what Congress is going to do,” he said, adding that he believes it would be much better for the policy to be repealed by Congress than the courts. “It’s not for me to decide, I stay out of that,” Mullen concluded.

The Courage Campaign, a California-based group which has become a national leader on gay rights, has enlisted Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War Veteran, to collect signatures from other veterans and military families who support repealing the policy. Murphy lost his election in PA-08 last week, but led the effort in the House to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and in the petition is demanding that the Senate take up the defense authorization bill to do the same. With Republicans mounting a united front in opposition, it could be difficult. But if the survey shows what has been described, it’s possible that enough Republicans could come around to get the bill passed. The window of opportunity is limited to the lame duck, as the incoming House Republican majority would be unlikely to make the change.

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David Dayen

David Dayen