07/10/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
The Pentagon is reacting now to the leak of the Pentagon Working Group survey of troops with regards to serving with open lesbians and gays. The survey responses on the possible repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said about the stories that have resulted from the leak of the 103-question survey that many “have been inflammatory in the worst case, and misleading in the best.” The survey was suppose to remain confidential, but the distribution of the survey to the 400,000 active duty and reserve military personnel ended up without that being achieved.
Morrell stated that “Outside influence is not helpful to the process.” Of course, given that several groups outside the process have already tried to influence the process by pushing the statements of retired chaplains out in order to try and stop the repeal, and that there was no punishment for a general who decided to issue an op-ed trying to preserve the policy, it is hard to believe that the outside influence was not going to occur anyway.
“We thought it would be breaking the faith with them for us to be proactively sharing the survey because what we are trying to do is preserve the credibility and integrity of the answers that it elicits from the force.”
“The survey is designed to get the attitudes of the force on how to proceed if Congress repeals the so-called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, and is not a referendum on whether or not the law should be repealed. The answers will inform the working group’s deliberations,” Morrell stated. The LGBT Community has been very leery of the commitment to repealing DADT. Right now, repeal rests on the shoulders of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and President Barack Obama and not Congress since an interim repeal is in the Defense budget for this year.
Morrell misses much of the reason behind the uproar when he states “Pentagon officials worked with a professional and reputable polling firm to produce the survey. Roughly the first third of the 103 questions seeks demographic information. The second third asks about professional and military experience. The third asks how the law’s repeal might affect the individual being surveyed.” Part of the problem is the wording. The more clinical word “homosexual” tends to elicit a more negative reaction than “lesbian or gay” does.
The working group is lead by Army General Carter Ham and Department of Defense General Council Jeh Johnson. To date, they have spoken with 14,000 servicemembers and another 33,000 have interacted with the department electronically. According to Morrell, most of the concerns have to do with privacy. “Clearly, a component of this scientific survey had to deal with privacy questions,” he stated. Ten of the questions involved privacy issues surrounding bathing facilities, living facilities and social settings.
With regards to the bathing facilities, Sue Fulton of Knights Out, a graduate of West Point and open lesbian, stated “My interp of the DADT Survey: There are homersecksuals in your showers. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!?! (bows).” Of course, the fact that they already bathe with lesbians and gays does not seem to have any kind of effect on their ability to use those facilities, or bunk down with them in the field.
“We think it would be irresponsible to conduct a survey that did not address these questions because when ‘Don’t ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed, we will have to determine if there are any challenges in those particular areas, any adjustments that need to be made in terms of how we educate the force or perhaps even facility adjustments that need to be made to deal with those scenarios,” Morrell stated. “But we won’t know any of that until we get a sense from the force of their attitudes. It could turn out, based on the survey, that there are fewer concerns than we are led to believe. There could be more or different concerns than we have anticipated.”
“We need people to participate in this survey to get a scientific understanding of the attitudes of the force, or the concerns, or issues or opportunities that may result from repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.
The feeling among many people, including many lesbian and gay veterans of the military is that many of these questions were designed to elicit a negative response from the soldiers and not to give balanced and unbiased information. Given the fact that the Pentagon has not pushed back strongly on internal dissent from many generals who want to keep this law in place, it is easy to understand why many lesbians and gays do not trust the military.