Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Outdated and Discriminatory Policy

Last week, a study commissioned by UCSB’s Palm Center, the "Report of the General/Flag Officers' Study Group”, effectively urged repeal of the military’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy or DADT. The study was conducted by a panel of retired senior officers - Lieutenant General Robert Gard, U.S. Army (Ret.), Brigadier General Hugh Aitkin, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Lieutenant General Minter Alexander, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), and Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, U.S. Navy (Ret.) - and their findings are captured in the report's Executive Summary:
A bipartisan study group of senior retired military officers, representing different branches of the service, has conducted an in-depth assessment of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy by examining the key academic and social science literature on the subject and interviewing a range of experts on leadership, unit cohesion and military law, including those who are training our nation's future military leaders at the service academies. The Study Group emphasized that any changes to existing personnel policy must not create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces' high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
The panel went on to say that DADT has had adverse impacts on military morale, cohesion, and performance, and it could not find a single opponent of gays in the military to explain his or her opposition on the record. That’s because it’s an irrational policy that simply doesn’t make sense. At a time when the military is dismissing hundreds of highly qualified service-members with critical skills simply because of their sexual orientation, it is also dramatically lowering enlistment standards by approving an increasing number of “morals waivers” to enlist thousands of convicted felons.

As reported in the Santa Barbara Independent:
The panel concluded that sufficient rules and regulations already exist to handle incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior, for homosexual as well as heterosexual military personnel. They also found that it made little sense to expel gays and lesbians from the military at a time that the armed services are experiencing such difficulty meeting their recruitment and retention goals. They cited evidence indicating that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” cost the armed services no less than 4,000 gays and lesbians a year who otherwise would have re-enlisted. Even more damaging, the report found that 800 people with “mission critical skills” were dismissed from the armed services because of sexual orientation between 2003 and 2006. Of those, 268 served in intelligence, 57 in combat engineering, 331 in medical service delivery, and more than 322 as language experts. Of this latter group, 58 specialized in Arabic languages.
The Washington Post:
Even though they found that "many" gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are serving openly in the military, they found that "don't ask, don't tell" has "compelled some gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to lie about their identity." They don't seek medical attention or religious counsel for fear of being outed. Attitudes in the military are changing, as the study group pointed out, and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly "is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline, or cohesion." Currently, 24 countries allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The study group highlighted the experience of Israel and Britain, which is actively recruiting gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to serve in the Royal Navy. The group's No. 1 recommendation is that Congress repeal the ban.
Among the other findings in the report were that "the law locks the military's position into stasis and does not accord trust to the Pentagon to adapt policy to changing circumstances ... [it] is not working; rather, it is the flexibility of military leaders, often ignoring or violating the policy, who are making the system work."

Among the panel’s recommendations were that Congress should repeal DADT "and return authority for personnel policy under this law to the Department of Defense", that the UCMJ should be updated to become neutral in terms of sexual orientation and enforce uniform standards of behavior, and that there should be immediate implementation of "safeguards for the confidentially of all conversations between service members and chaplains, doctors, and mental health professionals."

Hopefully Congress and the military will work together to overturn this policy which is outdated and discriminatory.

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