A study released today shows that the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was largely a non-event, not the military-breaking doomsday some of the policy’s supporters predicted.
When the policy was repealed almost one year ago, there was a large outcry from conservatives and some military personnel about what the repeal might do to the military and its morale. The study quotes a statement that was signed by over 1,000 retired admiral and generals in 2009, when talk of repealing the policy first began to gather political support:
“Repeal… would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
The study was conducted by the Palm Center, a think-tank devoted to studying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people in the military. The study’s stated methods show that researchers went out of their way to gauge the opinions of military leaders who made dire predictions such as the one above. They also contacted all major opponents and watchdog organizations opposed to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in addition to those who supported repeal. Surveys and interviews are the main basis for the study.
The results of the study show that the repeal of the policy has had “no overall negative impact” on military readiness. Specifically, military cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment, and morale have seen no net change.
There was no mass exodus of soldiers from the military following the repeal. There was also no overwhelming wave of disclosures from gay soldiers. The study’s surveys indicated that a “minority of heterosexual service members” reported someone in their unit had ‘come out.’
Units with openly gay service members also did not see a drop in cohesion. The study states that “In fact, greater openness and honesty resulting from repeal seem to have promoted increased understanding, respect and acceptance.” Violence against gay soldiers did not increase as a result of the repeal, and the study shows that openly gay service members now have new, official channels with which to resolve any harassment they may face.
While the study shows that the morale of individuals in the military may have been negatively impacted, this is outweighed by the positive morale impact others have experienced. The study shows that, overall, there was no net change in morale across the U.S. military as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” being repealed.
None of these results are particularly surprising. U.S. soldiers are, for the most part, well-disciplined and mature individuals that can handle something as simple as differing sexual orientations at least as well as they can handle the demanding conditions of a battlefield. The report points out that opponents of repeal have now adjusted their predictions to say that long-term damage might be seen rather than short-term. For now, though, predictions of the end of the U.S. military appear to have said more about the predictors’ opinions on the maturity of U.S. soldiers than anything else.
The study is scheduled to be published on September 20 – the first anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”