Recently the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, wrote a letter to the entire Air Force regarding the Pentagon’s working group study of how to implement repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. As part of the Pentagon’s directive, the armed services will survey their respective members, including their families, to gauge their views. Particular focus will be paid to performance, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and other matters that impact mission effectiveness.
The military is not a democracy, and we do not survey our troops to solicit their opinions on policy and operational decisions, most notably when we go into harm’s way. When other significant change has been brought about, military surveys were not conducted to discern the views of the troops.
Most recently when women were integrated onto submarines, the Navy did not conduct surveys. When women were integrated into the military academies in 1976, male service members were not surveyed. And when African Americans were fully integrated into the armed services, white service members and their families were not surveyed to determine their views.
There is already significant data regarding open service of gays and lesbians in the military and its effect upon performance, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and mission effectiveness. From numerous analytical studies commissioned by our military including that of Colonel Om Prakash, USAF, as well as academia, we have learned that open service has no detrimental effect upon the factors the Pentagon’s survey seeks to assess.
We can also draw upon the practical experiences of allies that allow open service, whose troops have served alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan. From the collective experiences of these countries, we have learned that there was no detrimental effect to their mission. All these nations now conclude that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly has been an overwhelmingly positive contribution to their mission.
One of the most important factors in implementing successful change in a large organization is strong, committed leadership from the top. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen are all committed to ensuring a smooth transition with respect to open service.
Surveying the troops is unnecessary and unprecedented. Instead, the Pentagon should focus on the lessons learned from our allies, as well as the research it has already conducted on this issue. That is the key to successfully repealing DADT.
03-26-10 By Former Air Force Major Mike Almy |