DADT Survey Doesn’t Say What You Think It Says…

…or maybe it does.  The report, entitled Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, was released yesterday (available here, or at the DoD DADT website).  The following is a list of highlights from the report.

Statistics and Questions

As noted previously, fun with numbers will likely allow both sides of the DADT debate to cite the report in favor of their position.

For example, one of the most frequently cited statistics (as here and here) is the statement that

When asked about how having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

However, using precisely the same numbers, one could also say

When asked about how having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 62% of Service members predicted it would have a negative or mixed effect.

Obviously, the second statement holds quite a different meaning than the first – yet both are entirely accurate.

One of the main disconnects is that many reports have conflated the “positive” responses toward repeal with the “equally positive or negative” or “no effect” responses.  This is likely due to the report’s openly stated bias toward repeal: The underlying question is “What harm would come from repeal?” rather than “What good would come from repeal?

Since the report equates “no effect” with no “harm,” it supports the bias toward repeal.  The report nowhere addresses the benefit to the military of repealing DADT (though President Obama said DADT “weakens…national security.”).  It even notes that discharges for homosexuality have accounted for a mere 0.33% of all dismissals, yet fails to describe how it would help the military to repeal the policy – particularly in light of the statistically significant “negative” responses.

When positive responses are compared directly to negatives, the results are significant.  For example, the reported impact of repeal on morale was 4.8% positive to 27.9% negative.  (This statistic was reported as “62%…responded that repeal would have a positive, mixed, or no effect on their morale.”)  If an institution of millions of people is faced with a choice that is only viewed by 5% as positive, what justification could there be for instituting that option?

Some critics, including US Senator John McCain, have asserted the questions may be flawed on their face.  The questions essentially say

If the Soldier next to you was homosexual, could you still defeat the enemy?

When most Soldiers naturally answer “yes,” some have taken it to mean they have “no problem” with or are “ambivalent” about serving with homosexuals, which is not at all what the question asks.  (Even official DoD releases cite statistics saying a majority of troops “do not object,” though such a question was never asked.)  In fact, the Soldier may simply be able to accomplish his mission despite having serious problems with the change in policy.  That’s like asking a Soldier if he could still accomplish the mission if he had his hand tied behind his back, no water or food for three days, and only three rounds of ammo.  Most will still say “yes;” that doesn’t mean it’s a situation they believe they should be in or support.

Another misquoted statistic:

More than nine out of 10 troops said their unit’s ability to work with someone they thought was gay or lesbian was very good, good, or neither good nor bad.

The cited statistic was of people who thought they might have served with someone who was homosexual — thus, it is not an accurate picture of actual homosexual service.  Also, they rated the unit’s “ability to work together,” not their ability to work with “with someone [who] was gay.”

Moral and Religious Concerns

The report did attempt to address “religious concerns” (as noted at CNN):

[W]e heard a large number of Service members raise religious and moral objections to homosexuality or to serving alongside someone who is gay. Some feared repeal…might limit their individual freedom of expression and free exercise of religion, or require them to change their personal beliefs about the morality of homosexuality. The views expressed to us in these terms cannot be downplayed or dismissed…  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.

Unfortunately, the report “dismisses” the very concerns it says cannot be “dismissed,” and it uses debunked counter-examples (religion, abortion) in the process:

  • The Christian perspective on religious freedom in the military has already been addressed elsewhere, more than once; in short, religious belief is a recognized human liberty protected by the Constitution.  Sexual conduct, by contrast, is not.
  • Military policies do not address abortion; US laws prohibit military facilities from use in abortions; and military doctors have been permitted to refuse to perform them.  The moral equivalency with sexual conduct fails.

There is no relevant comparison in “today’s U.S. military” with regard to homosexuality.  In failing to recognize this fact, the report ignored significant concerns raised to date.  The FRC notes that some in government have focused on “feelings” about homosexuality, rather than acknowledging the issue of morality.

Free Exercise and “Protected Class”

The report also said current protections on expression and free exercise are “adequate:”

Existing regulations state that chaplains “will not be required to perform a religious role…if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices of their faith.”

This entirely misses the point of the publicized concerns.  Chaplains have not expressed a fear they would be required to say something in a religious service they do not believe; they have expressed the fear they would be punished for saying something they do believe.  The report cites no regulation providing protection from that eventuality, but it does provide one enlightening recommendation:

We do not recommend that sexual orientation be placed alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, as a class eligible for various diversity programs, tracking initiatives, and complaint resolution processes under the Military Equal Opportunity Program.  We believe that doing so could produce a sense, rightly or wrongly, that gay men and lesbians are being elevated to a special status as a “protected class” and will receive special treatment.

(The report repeatedly references “sexual orientation,” despite the fact the law bans homosexual conduct, not “orientation.”)

Of course, this is a recommendation, not a policy or law.  There have been efforts elsewhere, including the US House and Senate, to elevate sexual preference to precisely such a status.

Logistics and Benefits

One of the greatest concerns of repeal raised without respect to religion has been billeting and berthing.  The report advises that creating separate facilities is “a logistical nightmare.”

The creation of a third and possibly fourth category of bathroom facilities and living quarters, whether at bases or forward deployed areas, would be a logistical nightmare, expensive, and impossible to administer.

The report goes on to say the desire to be physically separated from homosexuals is based on “stereotype:”

Most concerns we heard about showers and bathrooms were based on [the] stereotype…that permitting homosexual and heterosexual people of the same sex to shower together is tantamount to allowing men and women to shower together.

However, common sense tells us that a situation in which people of different anatomy shower together is different from a situation in which people of the same anatomy but different sexual orientations shower together.

A man attracted to a woman’s body can’t shower with a woman, but a man attracted to a man’s body can shower with a man?  That “common sense” apparently isn’t so common:  Despite the report’s assertions, two-thirds of those surveyed said they would proactively respond if forced to share shower facilities with a homosexual (with a plurality saying they’d shower at a different time).

Benefits based on marriage are explicitly denied based on the military’s obligation to the Defense of Marriage Act.  However, the report suggests some benefits could be opened up by re-defining “spouse.”

A Majority Object to Repeal

Interestingly, the report says that every method except the survey revealed a majority of servicemembers did not want repeal, but

If the Working Group were to attempt to numerically divide the sentiments we heard expressed in IEFs, online inbox entries, focus groups, and confidential online communications between those who were for or against repeal of the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, our sense is that the majority of views expressed were against repeal of the current policy.

However, any such effort to divide the sentiments into one camp or another would not have any quantitative value, and would be highly misleading and flawed…The views voiced both for and against repeal in [those fora] were not representative of the force as a whole. The Service members we heard from through these mechanisms were those individuals who felt strongly enough and motivated enough to give voice to their views.

Separation for Moral Cause, or “Vote with Your Feet”

The report acknowledged that some have asked if they will be allowed to leave the military if they are morally opposed to open homosexuality in the military.  In short, no.

We recommend against a policy allowing release from service commitments and voluntary discharge of Service members based on opposition to living or serving with gay or lesbian Service members after a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Discharge Statistics

As an interesting aside,

Approximately one quarter of [DADT] discharges have occurred in the first four months of a Service member’s service.

which may lend support to the belief that some may have second thoughts about the military and say “I’m gay” as a quick way out of their service obligation with an honorable discharge.

Other Notes:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notes the Joint Chiefs have reservations over the high percentage of combat troops who have issues with repeal.