The studies that have come out so far about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have found that the new policy has had no real negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale. The study comes out just before the one-year anniversary of the repeal of DADT, and was written and researched by professors at the US Military Academy, US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy and US Marine Corps War College.
Dr. Aaron Belkin was the lead author of the study and stated that “The U.S. Military has set an international standard with the smooth transition to openly gay service.” Belkin is the director of the Palm Center, the research institute that published the study.
In 2009, over 1000 retired generals and admirals blasted the push to repeal DADT stating that it would break the all-volunteer force. Marine Commandant John Amos claimed that the repeal would cost lives, and Senator John McCain viciously attacked repeal back in 2010.
While the media has reported impressionistic observations about the impact of DADT repeal, today’s study is the first scholarly analysis of the topic. To determine whether repeal has compromised the military, the study’s co-authors pursued multiple research methodologies including in-depth interviews, on-site field observations of military units, and survey analysis. They made extensive efforts to identify evidence that repeal has harmed the armed forces, including soliciting the views of 553 retired generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, of all known expert and activist opponents of repeal, and of major anti-repeal organizations.
Notable findings of the new study include: (1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal; (2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study’s co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal; (3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal; (4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal; (5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.
The co-authors of the study found that the repeal actually improved trust among the troops, and has opened up new paths for service members to resolve problems that were not there before DADT was repealed. The Palm Center noted that “one soldier told them that in the initial period after repeal, he continued to hear derogatory language by some in his unit. Yet when he spoke with them about leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved. ‘They don’t agree,’ he said, ‘but they were willing to be professional.’ The soldier added that frank discussions are now less risky because of repeal, that honesty helped disabuse his colleagues of preconceived notions about gay people, and that ultimately, problems were ‘completely resolved.’”