Since the release of the Pentagon's survey of service members regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell, conservatives have attacked the report as inaccurate, claiming it does not adequately represent veterans, that repeal would require a return to the draft, and that it would censor military chaplains. In fact, veterans are well represented in the survey, most said repeal would not affect their career plans, and existing regulations account for the varying beliefs of military chaplains.
CLAIM: Report is "rigged," doesn't reflect views of combat troops or combat veterans
Wash. Times: Working group held exchanges outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to "dilute the potential for a negative response." From a December 1 Washington Times editorial:
The final report's release is a last-ditch effort to provide Democratic members of Congress the cover they need to ram through the law's repeal in the lame-duck session.
It isn't going to work. A closer examination of the headline result shows that 63 percent of respondents live off-base or in civilian housing and consequently answered that a change in policy might not affect them. Those in combat roles - where unit cohesion and trust are life-and-death concerns - gave a different response. About half with combat experience said a change would have a negative or very negative impact in the field or at sea. Among Marine combat troops, two-thirds said combat readiness would suffer.
Perhaps that's why the working group held 51 "information exchange forums" at bases only in the United States, Germany and Japan. Minimizing the views of those serving in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan helped further dilute the potential for a negative response.
WND headline: "Pentagon report on 'gays' rigged?" A December 1 WorldNetDaily article stated that "Critics are charging that the Pentagon report on repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was rigged to come to conclusions preordained by the Obama administration." From the article:
But critics challenge whether the survey was a fair assessment of soldiers' attitudes, suggesting it was designed to arrive at the conclusion preferred by the Obama administration, which quashed opposing views.
"When this study was first announced, Lt. Gen. Mixon, the commander of our forces in the Pacific, publicly encouraged soldiers to speak out on the issue. He was told in no uncertain terms to shut up or get out of the service," said [Dick] Black, a former Marine combat officer and Army lawyer.
"I find it most difficult to believe troops honestly support homosexuals in the military," Black continued. "That's silly, there's no way that 92 percent could be a legitimate figure."
NY Post op-ed: Response rate means "highly likely that the poll over represents pro-repeal voices." Kieran Michael Lalor -- founder of Iraq Veterans for Congress, a political action committee that supports conservative Republican candidates who are also Iraq veterans -- wrote in a November 30 New York Post op-ed:
Let's look at the "evidence." In addition to some focus groups, an anonymous online "drop box" and a survey of military spouses, the Pentagon sent a questionnaire to 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops. Less than 30 percent returned it -- and if our troops thought that repeal would help them take a hill, secure a perimeter or survive combat, the response rate wouldn't have been so low.
Supporters of any existing policy are rarely as energized to offer their opinion as those who want change, so it's highly likely that the poll over represents pro-repeal voices.
Lalor: Combat arms troops -- those in infantry, artillery, or armor units -- "surely had less opportunity to be surveyed[.]" From Lalor's op-ed:
And a poll of the entire military isn't much use. When the issue is how a policy impacts our ability to win wars, greater weight should go to the views of those in the combat arms. The opinion of a clerk who works in an air-conditioned office in the Green Zone just isn't as relevant as that of a squad leader at a forward operating base.
Indeed, those serving in infantry, artillery and armor units surely had less opportunity to be surveyed: They're either in the field training stateside or deployed to the front lines overseas. If the study were serious about analyzing how repeal would affect the military's capacity to fight, it would have broken the results down by Military Occupational Specialty to allow it to focus on how the war-fighters felt.
REALITY: Combat veterans are well represented in report; response rate is typical
Majority of respondents have deployed to a "combat zone," or an area subject to "imminent danger" or "hostile fire." When asked if they had ever been deployed for 30 days or more, a total of 69.8 percent of respondents answered that they either were currently deployed or had been previously. Of those, 83 percent had deployed to a "combat zone," or an area subject to "imminent danger" or "hostile fire" since September 11, 2001. This means that approximately 58 percent of survey respondents had such deployment experience since 9-11. From page 162 of the report:
In developing report, working group considered veteran status. In developing questions for the report, the working group held information exchange forums (IEF) at bases with large populations of combat veterans. From pages 34-36 of the report, emphasis added:
At the Secretary's direction, IEFs were not conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid interference with the missions there. However, at installations such as Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Camp Lejeune, and elsewhere, we encountered large numbers of Service members who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan one or more times, or were preparing to deploy. These Service members shared their perspectives concerning the impact of repeal in combat situations and deployed environments.
The Service member survey was developed by representatives from the Working Group, Westat, the Defense Manpower Data Center, and the Services' survey offices. The survey questions were devised to address each area of the Terms of Reference, as well as additional topics of concern (e.g., privacy) that were identified through our IEFs and other engagements with the forces.
Distinctions between combat arms troops and other specialties disappear when polling troops who worked with gay service members. While higher percentages of Marines and service members in combat arms units expressed higher concerns, large majorities of personnel who had experience working in units with service members known to be gay said that their unit's ability to work together was fair or better. From page 6 of the report [emphasis added]:
Given that we are in a time of war, the combat arms communities across all Services required special focus and analysis. Though the survey results demonstrate a solid majority of the overall U.S. military who predict mixed, positive or no effect in the event of repeal, these percentages are lower, and the percentage of those who predict negative effects are higher, in combat arms units. For example, in response to question 68a, while the percentage of the overall U.S. military that predicts negative or very negative effects on their unit's ability to "work together to get the job done" is 30%, the percentage is 43% for the Marine Corps, 48% within Army combat arms units, and 58% within Marine combat arms units.
However, while a higher percentage of Service members in warfighting units predict negative effects of repeal, the percentage distinctions between warfighting units and the entire military are almost non-existent when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with someone believed to be gay. For example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92% stated that their unit's "ability to work together," was "very good, "good" or "neither good nor poor." Meanwhile, in response to the same question, the percentage is 89% for those in Army combat arms units and 84% for those in Marine combat arms units--all very high percentages. Anecdotally, we heard much the same. As one special operations force warfighter told us, "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."
Palm Center: Survey response rate typical, "suggests low concern about nonresponse bias[.]" In a research memo titled "Interpreting Response Rate for the 2010 Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Survey," Dr. Bonnie Moradi of the Palm Center at the University of California explained that the response rate for the DoD survey was typical, and that research suggested "low concern" for nonresponse bias. From the memo:
The DoD Comprehensive Review Survey response rate is within the range of response rates for web-based surveys and within the range of response rates for recent surveys of military service members. Nonresponse rate of a survey is a poor predictor of nonresponse bias and low response rates are not tantamount to bias. Research on the impact of response rates suggests low concern about nonresponse bias in the DoD Comprehensive Review Survey.
CLAIM: Repeal would undermine retention
Kinsolving: Repeal "would almost certainly put an end to our all-volunteer armed forces." In a November 30 WorldNetDaily column, Les Kinsolving claimed that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell would cause an "uproar" exceeding that regarding "airplane passengers being sexually groped by employees of the Transportation Security Administration." Kinsolving added [emphasis added]:
If that took place, just consider the impact of a large number of long-serving personnel who would retire as soon as possible - rather than submitting to such a horrendous invasion of privacy as being lusted after by the numerous lobbies of militant homosexuality.
This, in turn, would almost certainly put an end to our all-volunteer armed forces. That would compel reinstitution of the draft.
Any such compulsory service in the armed forces with self-announced noncommissioned and commissioned officers who are militant homosexuals would at least cause major lawsuits - along with an even higher rate of draft resistors than during the Vietnam War.
North: Repeal would mean "whole lot fewer voluntary enlistments," return to draft. On the December 1 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Oliver North claimed that repeal would mean fewer voluntary enlistments and a return to the draft:
JENNA LEE (anchor): Viewers have a lot of questions about our resources though as a military, and this is follow-up from Ken Delap. He wants to know if there is ever a scenario you can imagine where we would have to reinstate the draft?
NORTH: Well, yeah, I can because of what they're about to do in terms of the Congress passing this revocation of Section 654 of Title 10. What you're liable to have happen is a consequence of-- and by the way, that is known in the jargon as "don't ask, don't tell." What you're likely to have is a whole lot fewer voluntary enlistments that we rely on right now for an all-volunteer force.
LEE: And Colonel North, you really think that would happen? Because Briana had a great question from Phoenix, Arizona. She says, "Is having homosexual men and women in the military really a detriment to the establishment of the military?" Sounds like you're saying yes?
NORTH: It is. There's no doubt. I've never -- in all of my trips overseas, Briana and Jenna, and everyone else out there, in now almost two years of covering this war for Fox News on the ground with U.S. units, I have never -- there's very few always and nevers in life -- I have never talked to a staff noncommissioned officer or a mid-grade officer with combat experience who believes this is a good thing to do. And if we're relying on the fact that 30 percent have already expressed their concern about this don't leave the military and get replaced, then we've got a problem because you can't live with an all-volunteer force that loses 30 percent of the best-educated, trained, led, militarily equipped and combat-experienced force the world ever has known. It could be very, very dangerous in the long term.
REALITY: Troops with gay colleagues said units worked fine; predictions that troops would flee integrated military have failed elsewhere
Report: 92% of respondents who worked with gay service members said units were effective. From page 4 of the report, emphasis added:
The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today's U.S. military, and most Service members recognize this. As stated before, 69% of the force recognizes that they have at some point served in a unit with a co-worker they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who have actually had this experience in their career, 92% stated that the unit's "ability to work together" was "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor," while only 8% stated it was "poor" or "very poor." 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.
Report: "70-76% of Service members said repeal would have a positive, a mixed, or no effect on aspects of task cohesion." When asked about the effect of repeal on task cohesion, personal readiness, and unit readiness, majorities of those surveyed said they expected a "positive, mixed, or no effect." From page 64 of the report [emphasis added]:
The Service member survey asked a number of questions on Service members' views about the effect of repeal on unit cohesion, including task and social cohesion. Task cohesion is a unit's ability to work together effectively, whereas social cohesion is a unit's ability to get along and trust one another. Overall, 70-76% of Service members said repeal would have a positive, a mixed, or no effect on aspects of task cohesion. Similarly, 67-78% of Service members said repeal would have a positive, mixed, or no effect on aspects of social cohesion.
Report: More than 60 percent of respondents said repeal would not change their career plans, only 13 percent said they would leave the service early. From page 69 of the report:
Overall, more than 60% of Service members told us that their career plans would not change as a result of repeal; 13% said that they would definitely leave sooner than they had otherwise planned; and 11% said they would think about leaving sooner than they had planned.
Polls predicted foreign armies would lose large amounts of troops post-repeal; such predictions did not occur. 45 percent of 6,500 Canadian troops polled in a 1985 survey said that they would refuse to work with gay troops. Two-thirds of British troops said they would not willingly serve if repeal were enacted. As Aaron Belkin wrote in a 2003 article for Parameters, "Yet when Canada and Britain subsequently lifted their gay bans, these dire predictions were not confirmed."
CLAIM: Repeal would silence chaplain corps
Kinsolving: Baptist, Roman Catholic chaplains would be "forced out of our armed forces because they refuse to repudiate the Holy Bible's repeated denunciations of homosexual behavior[.]" From Kinsolving's November 30 WND column:
What about the vast majority of our armed forces' Chaplains' Corps, many of whom are Baptists and Roman Catholics? How can the First Amendment be preserved if DADT is abolished and these devout Christians are forced out of our armed forces because they refuse to repudiate the Holy Bible's repeated denunciations of homosexual behavior?
In WND, anti-gay activist LaBarbera wonders if chaplains will "be allowed to preach anything the military doesn't believe in, like the Scriptural passages condemning homosexual behavior?"The December 1 WND article quoted Americans for Truth About Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera claiming that repeal amount to indoctrination:
"What a disaster," said LaBarbera. "The Pentagon's plan calls for a gradual transition, and they plan to use that time to 'educate' the troops about proper attitudes toward homosexuality. When we start talking about educating the troops, we're talking about indoctrination.
"They say chaplains won't be made to teach anything they don't believe in. But will they be allowed to preach anything the military doesn't believe in, like the Scriptural passages condemning homosexual behavior?
"I don't know what planet those guys are living on, but on this planet 'gay' rights certainly undermine the rights of people who disagree," LaBarbera continued. "They're either naïve or they're not willing to say what will obviously happen down the road. Greater and greater advance of 'gay' rights down the road with the goal of changing soldiers' minds.
REALITY: Current regulations balance chaplains' religious freedom, "duty to care for all"
Report: Existing regulations "strike an appropriate balance between protecting a chaplain's First Amendment freedoms and a chaplain's duty to care for all." From page 12 of the report, emphasis added:
Special attention should also be given to address the concerns of our community of 3,000 military chaplains. Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about Don't Ask, Don't Tell exists among the chaplain corps. A large number of military chaplains (and their followers) believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, and that they are required by God to condemn it as such.
However, the reality is that in today's U.S. military, people of sharply different moral values and religious convictions -- including those who believe that abortion is murder and those who do not, and those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and those who do not -- and those who have no religious convictions at all, already co-exist, work, live, and fight together on a daily basis. The other reality is that policies regarding Service members' individual expression and free exercise of religion already exist, and we believe they are adequate. Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs; they must, however, continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs.
Within the chaplain community, the solution to this issue can be found in the existing guidance developed by and for our chaplains, which we believe should be reiterated as part of any education and training concerning repeal. Those regulations strike an appropriate balance between protecting a chaplain's First Amendment freedoms and a chaplain's duty to care for all. Existing regulations state that chaplains "will not be required to perform a religious role...in worship services, command ceremonies, or other events, if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices of their faith." At the same time, regulations state that "Chaplains care for all Service members, including those who claim no religious faith, facilitate the religious requirements of personnel of all faiths, provide faith-specific ministries, and advise the command."