Updates will follow at the bottom
This afternoon, the Pentagon Comprehensive Working Group report was released, and I’m coming up for air after reading through some key graphs. The report surveyed “400,000 active duty and reserve component Service members with an extensive and professionally-developed survey, which prompted 115,052 responses-one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military,” (which includes self-identied gay or lesbian servicemembers), along with 150,000 spouses and other family members, foreign allies, members of Congress, services chiefs, service academy superintendents, and other personnel. Which makes it hard to cast as some minority report.
I think these paragraphs of the report indeed states it best:
The results of the survey are best represented by the answers to three questions:
- When asked about how having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.
- When asked “in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” 69% of Service members reported that they had.
- 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.”
The latter point is a statistic which is 89% for those in Army combat units and 84% for those in Marine combat units. Additionally, 74% of spouses of military service-members say repeal of DADT would have no impact on their view of whether their husbands or wives should continue to serve.
Other key graphs I think are important to highlight (bolding mine where seen):
The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today’s U.S. military, and most Service members recognize this… Anecdotally, we also heard a number of Service members tell us about a leader, co-worker, or fellow Service member they greatly liked, trusted, or admired, who they later learned was gay; and how once that person’s sexual orientation was revealed to them, it made little or no difference to the relationship. Both the survey results and our own engagement of the force convinced us that when Service members had the actual experience of serving with someone they believe to be gay, in general unit performance was not affected negatively by this added dimension.
In communications with gay and lesbian current and former Service members, we repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as
everyone else. In the words of one gay Service member, repeal would simply “take a knife out of my back….You have no idea what it is like to have to serve in silence.” Most said they did not
desire special treatment, to use the military for social experimentation, or to advance a social agenda. Some of those separated under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would welcome the opportunity to rejoin the military if permitted. From them, we heard expressed many of the same values that we heard over and over again from Service members at large-love of country, honor, respect, integrity, and service over self. We simply cannot square the reality of these people with the perceptions about “open” service.
Along the way to gender integration, many of our Nation’s military leaders predicted dire consequences for unit cohesion and military effectiveness if women were allowed to serve in large numbers. As with racial integration, this experience has not always been smooth. But, the consensus is the same: the introduction and integration of women into the force has made our military stronger.
The general lesson we take from these transformational experiences in history is that in matters of personnel change within the military, predictions and surveys tend to overestimate negative consequences, and underestimate the U.S. military’s ability to adapt and incorporate within its ranks the diversity that is reflective of American society at large.
This one is particularly interesting:
We support the pre-existing proposals to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and remove private consensual sodomy between adults as a criminal offense. This change in law is warranted irrespective of whether Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed, to resolve any constitutional concerns about the provision in light of Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Marcum. We also support revising offenses involving sexual conduct or inappropriate relationships to ensure sexual orientation neutral application, consistent with the recommendations of this report. For example, the offense of adultery defined in the Manual for Courts-Martial should be revised to apply equally to heterosexual and homosexual sex that is engaged in by or with a married person
If you’re wondering, given the size of the poll, the margin of error for the service member poll is +/- less than 1%, and “similar” for the spouse survey. So it’s hard to cast the numbers as wildly inaccurate.
The Working Group concluded that “Based on all we saw and heard, 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.”
In a press conference announcing the release, Secretary Gates commented:
Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year. It is only a matter of time before the federal courts are drawn once more into the fray, with the very real possibility that this change would be imposed immediately by judicial fiat – by far the most disruptive and damaging scenario I can imagine, and the one most hazardous to military morale, readiness and battlefield performance.
While “judicial fiat” is not the language I would have chosen, Gates is using the threat of a court ruling as an argument for Congress to enact repeal “the right way”. It’s an interesting case that may encourage Senators to support repeal.
Jeh Johnson, a co-chair of the Working Group, also spoke, and noted that the resistance to repeal “is driven by misperceptions and stereotypes.”
The full report can be found here. I will continue updating this post as I keep reading, and let you know of other developments.
And as I wrote this morning, now is a more critical time than ever to call swing Senators and ask friends/family/colleagues to also do so, using the Pentagon report as a tool. A list of swing votes can be found here, and the number is 202-224-3121. We still have work to do.
Updated: An interesting section on page 122 that I think gets at much of the concern and stereotypes not just in the military, but in greater society with respect to gays and lesbians becoming teachers, or the passage of ENDA- and batted down by the Pentagon.
In listening to Service members we found a perceptions gap- between the perception of the gay Service member that people know and work with, and the perception of the stereotypical gay individual that people do not know and have never worked with. When Service members talk about a unit member they believe to be gay or lesbian, their assessment of that individual was based on a complete picture and actual experience, including the Service member’s technical and tactical capabilities and other characteristics that contribute to his or her overall effectiveness as a member of the military and as a colleague.
By contrast, when asked about serving with the imagined gay Service member who is “open” about his or her sexual orientation, that feature becomes the predominant if not sole characteristic of the individual, and stereotypes fill in the rest of the picture. Stereotypes motivated many of the comments we heard. The most prevalent concern expressed is that gay men will behave in a stereotypically effeminate manner, while lesbian women are stereotypically painted in “masculine” terms. We heard widespread perceptions that, if permitted to be open and honest about their sexual orientation, gay Service members would behave as sexual predators and make unwelcome sexual advances on heterosexuals, gay men would adopt feminine behavior and dress, there would be open and notorious displays of affection in the military environment between same-sex couples, and that repeal would lead to an overall erosion of unit cohesion, morale, and good order and discipline. Based on our review, however, we conclude that these concerns are exaggerated and not consistent with the reported experiences of many Service members.
The perceptions gap we note here is also reflected in the survey data. The data reveals that Service members who are currently serving with someone they believe to be gay or lesbian are less likely to perceive a negative impact of repeal on the key elements of unit task and social cohesion, and unit effectiveness. Conversely, those who have believe they have never served with someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to perceive a negative impact. Likewise, of Service members who believe they have in their career served in a unit with a co-worker who is gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”
Thus, our view is that the negative perceptions and predictions of serving alongside a gay Service member are refuted by the considerable track record of actual experiences where Service members did exactly that.
Update 2: This section on pages 126-27 make up especially critical talking points against one of the lead anti-repeal arguments, that being “now is not the time”:
Change During a Time of War
Our assessment also took account of the fact that the Nation is at war on several fronts, and for a period of over nine years, the U.S. military has been fully engaged, and has faced the stress and demands of frequent and lengthy deployments. When it comes to a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, many ask: why now?
The question “why now?” is not for us, but for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and Congress, informed by the military advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The question we answer here is “can we now?” We considered the question carefully and conclude that repeal can be implemented now, provided it is done in a manner that minimizes the burden on leaders in deployed areas. Our recommended implementation plan does just that, and it is discussed more fully in the accompanying support plan for implementation.
The primary concern is for the added requirement that will be created by the training and education associated with repeal. We are cognizant of these concerns, but note that during this period, the Services have undertaken education and training in deployed areas on a number of important personnel matters. These education and training initiatives have included increased emphasis on sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, and training to detect indications of behavioral health problems.
The conduct of these programs in deployed areas indicates that training and education associated with a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can be accommodated. We assess this to be the case, in large part because our recommendations in this report involve a minimalist approach to changes in policies, plus education and training that reiterates existing policies in a sexual orientation-neutral manner.
It is also the case that the results of the survey indicate, though this is a time of war, a solid majority of Service members believe that repeal will have positive, mixed, or no effect. Most of those surveyed joined our military after September 11, 2001, and have known nothing but a military at war.
We are also informed by past experience. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the period immediately following World War II, during the Korean War and the beginning of the Cold War, our military took on the task of racial integration, in advance of the rest of society. And, at the time, the change implicated far larger numbers of Service members: African Americans in the Army then numbered 700,000 of a total force of over 8 million, and the opposition to racial integration was far greater than today’s resistance to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The process of racial integration was slow and presented many challenges, but history shows that there were no differences in combat effectiveness in the Korean War between integrated and all-white segregated units.