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Report: 70% Of Soldiers Support DADT Repeal

For the second time in two weeks, The Washington Post is out with leaked detailed about the Defense Department’s survey of active duty members of the military regarding the proposed repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Two weeks ago, they reported that a majority of soldiers surveyed would be fine with repeal of the policy. Today, we learn that the it is, in fact, a vast majority of active duty servicemen would be perfectly okay with serving alongside openly gay comrades:

A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama on Dec. 1.

More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report’s authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.

One source, who has read the report in full, summarized its findings in a series of conversations this week. The source declined to state his position on whether or not to lift the ban, insisting it did not matter. He said he felt compelled to share the information out of concern that groups opposed to ending the ban would mischaracterize the findings. The long, detailed and nuanced report will almost certainly be used by opponents and supporters of repeal legislation to bolster their positions in what is likely to be a heated and partisan congressional debate.

The document totals about 370 pages and is divided into two sections. The first section explores whether repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would harm unit readiness or morale. It cites the findings of a survey sent over the summer to 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops, a separate questionnaire sent to about 150,000 military spouses, the responses submitted to an anonymous online dropbox seeking comments, and responses from focus-group participants.

The second part of the report presents a plan for ending enforcement of the ban. It is not meant to serve as the military’s official instruction manual on the issue but could be used if military leaders agreed, one of the sources said.

Among other questions, the survey asked if having an openly gay person in a unit would have an effect in an intense combat situation. Although a majority of respondents signaled no strong objections, a significant minority is opposed to serving alongside openly gay troops. About 40 percent of the Marine Corps is concerned about lifting the ban, according to one of the people familiar with the report.

It seems fairly apparent that this pattern of leaks is part of a public relations campaign designed to lay the groundwork for a run at DADT repeal during the upcoming lame duck session, although it’s unclear if Congress will still be in session when the report actually comes out. Moreover, the signals coming out of the Senate right now make it seem unlikely that DADT repeal will make it through the Senate this year, and it seems even less likely that it could do so next year. It’s possible, of course, that a favorable DoD report would be enough to give some Senators — like Susan Collins and Scott Brown — the political cover they need to support repeal. However, based on the vote in September, Democrats would need to pick up at least three votes in order to invoke cloture.

Can that happen? My guess is no, but I’m hopeful that sanity will prevail in this situation.

Whether it does or not, the Pentagon clearly seems to be preparing for the day when DADT will be phased out, whether legislatively or as a result of Court action. The current version of the policy, for example, requires all discharges for violation of the policy to be reviewed by civilian political appointees. Additionally, the upcoming report is apparently recommending other changes to the way the military treats gays and lesbians:

Among several recommendations, the report urges an end to the military ban on sodomy between consenting adults regardless of what Congress or the federal courts might do about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the source said.

More importantly, though, we are learning that the fears of the opponents of DADT repeal about how changing this policy would be disruptive are most likely false. That doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s looked at the experiences of nations like the United Kingdom and Israel, both of which ended their bans on openly gave service members many years ago, of course, but it should put us at the point where there really is no longer any rational reason to support treating gays in the military differently.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook