First Post-DADT Study Shows No Negative Impact

The Palm Center, an activist group that advocated for repeal of the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” has publicized a “study” (PDF) it conducted that purports to put to bed claims that open service by homosexuals in the US military will ever be anything other than a “non-event,” based on an analysis of the “one-year mark.”

The first academic study of the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) has found that the new policy of open service has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale…

While the story is being repeated in a couple of places, it seems few have actually read the report.  For example, the “academic study” is based on the following samples:

  • 11 interviews with Generals who opposed repeal
  • 1 interview with a “public opponent” of repeal 
  • 18 interviews with “scholars and practitioners,” starting with a Palm Center list
  • 62 US troop interviews (37 homosexual, 25 heterosexual)
  • 14 responses to a Military Times advertisement/survey (4 homosexual, 10 heterosexual)
  • 80 pre-repeal and 120 post-repeal surveys of readiness — all by homosexual troops

In addition, the Palm Center “observed” two military units with homosexual members and two with none to “identify qualitative differences.”  They also “reviewed” 462 media stories from LexisNexis using the search terms “gay” and “dadt.”  Finally, they relied heavily on an unscientific Military Times survey conducted in January 2012.

Importantly, with regard to people who are actually in the military, the report is predicated on the views of 262 servicemembers.  That’s bad enough, given that there are nearly 3 million servicemembers in the total force.  Worse, however, is the caveat that 90 percent of those individuals were homosexual, and 200 were part of an activist organization with a pro-homosexual agenda.

Those hardly sound like the marks of a respectable and reliable study.

There were some other interesting points that failed to consider the full context of the environment surrounding DADT.

For example, the report cites many examples of an “improvement” in morale and general readiness.  These examples are explicitly based on the elimination of the ambiguously moral policy of not asking members if they were breaking the law.  Homosexual troops naturally felt stress knowing they were breaking the law, and heterosexual troops who didn’t want to get them in trouble, but found out they were homosexual, likewise experienced stress.

The study fails to note, however, that repealing DADT — and leaving in place the ban on homosexuals in the military — would have had the same “relieving” effect by eliminating ambiguity on acceptability.  It was an arguably indefensible policy of “not asking” about illegal conduct that caused much of  the negative morale and impact to readiness, not the failure to accept homosexuality.

In another example, the study categorically states that the US military reaching its recruiting and retention goals means “DADT repeal has not had any measurable impact on recruitment or retention.”  The report fails to mention how it would even go about measuring such an impact; it simply assumes if goals were met, DADT was a non-issue.  The leap lacks credible academic rigor.

Generally, the survey seems to accept with little question data that support its position, while it minimizes, dismisses, or categorizes opposing data as “unpersuasive.” For example, it briefly mentions — and then never discusses — the significant fact one of its data sources indicated 30% of US troops still say homosexuals should be banned from military service.  When it acknowledges that morale has been negatively affected by DADT repeal, the report characterized it as an apparently acceptable “minor disappointment.”

The report also equates silence with “enlightenment” or acceptance:

A Navy commander said…one of her classmates brought up “a story on NPR about a [male] Marine officer who was coming out, and taking a male to the Marine Corps ball that year.” Some of her classmates responded “by wondering, ‘why can’t they just keep that information to themselves?’ But then another classmate asked, ‘why should they have to hide?’”…The woman had not acknowledged her sexual orientation prior to this discussion, and many of her classmates were shocked. The commander said that, “It was a conversation stopper. Those guys hadn’t thought of it that way before. I also think they didn’t realize they knew someone who was actually gay.”

It is a verifiable fact that her announcement of her homosexuality was a “conversation stopper.”  It is speculation to assume — and academically dishonest to imply — it was the sudden, enlightened realization they knew someone who was “actually gay.”  Yet the theme is repeated throughout the report, implying that the silencing of criticisms of homosexuality was a positive indicator of “no impact.”  It failed to adequately consider other reasons for the silence of those who opposed homosexuality — like a command environment or culture that had officially scolded those who opposed homosexuality.  The report spent one paragraph discussing the “gag rule” potentially imposed on troops who oppose homosexuality — and then summarily dismissed it.

The study claims to report on the “one year mark” post-DADT repeal, yet it relies on a January 2012 Military Times survey, spring recruiting and retention data, and interviews conducted no later than May 2012.  At best, it could be used to describe the period of perhaps 3 to 7 months, yet it is titled “One Year Out…”  It acknowledges some have said it is too early to draw such dramatic conclusions — and it then dismisses those concerns based primarily on the unscientific assumption that if something bad was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Interestingly, the report does include a page of 41 signatories attesting to the “quality of research” in the study, all of whom were or are instructors at military academies or institutions.  Most of the names are fairly unknown, though a few are interesting.  There are prior connections to the Palm Center (ie, Gen Tom Kolditz), and the lead associate editors of LtCol Jim Parco’s Attitudes Aren’t Free are also reviewers of this Palm Center study. Parco was also one of the “scholars and practitioners” interviewed for this Palm Center study, and two authors of the study — Aaron Belkin and Nathaniel Frank — also co-authored a DADT repeal article in Parco’s Attitudes Aren’t Free.  Two other notables include Dr. Barry Fagin and retired LtCol Edith Disler.  Both, along with Parco, are allies of Michael Weinstein.  Disler, who is homosexual, retired from the US Air Force Academy not long after reportedly being sanctioned for inviting homosexuals to speak to her class.  The Palm Center issued her press release, and she went on to serve on the advisory board of Michael Weinstein’s “charity” for a time.

It seems some of those who “endorsed the quality of research” conducted by the Palm Center were far from independent, either in ideological activism or even prior alliances.  There are interesting overlaps in the advocates for this cause.

Ultimately, the “first academic study” on the post-DADT era is a far cry from being either academic or a study.  A review of its construct and analysis makes it appear to be a grasp for headlines and a positive portrayal of an agenda-based topic rather than an academic review of a controversial subject.

The report dismissed some timeliness concerns by saying critics of repeal had “implied” immediate and dire consequences, and the absence of those consequences validated their study.  As with other facts in the report, that is a mischaracterization.  It was a melodramatic assumption by proponents of repeal that critics thought the world would end the day after repeal.

In fact, it was obvious to the casual observer, and occasionally plainly stated, that only time would tell the impact on the US military of changing its moral landscape.


  • Please could you demonstrate that homosexual behaviour is immoral?

  • @Donalbain
    You failed to respond the last time you asked this question and received a reply.

  • Because you did not demonstrate that it is immoral.

  • @JD

    I am puzzled that even after achieving the technical skills and scientific knowledge necessary to pilot the worlds most advanced fighter aircraft, that you would not extend that faith in science to the in-depth and peer-reviewed findings of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and others relative to Homosexuality.

    These studies, which may be obtained by accessing them on Google, simply point out what many of us objectively suspected all along; that Homosexuality is a normally occuring state similar to heterosexuality. It is not a matter of choice and may not be “acquired” nor can it be “cured” or “prayed straight.” It’s as simple as being born with blonde hair instead of brown or red.

    Homosexual same-sex attraction is not, repeat, not immoral. Allowing religion-generated bigotry to foster institutionalized discrimination against Gays and Lesbians is not only unAmerican but unconstitutional. It also does not speak well for the religion that erroneously and destructively generates such discrimination. Just as Witch Hunts, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Genocides and the like were seen to be works of God, we now know that they, like today’s discrimination against Gays and Lesbians, were wrong and misguided.

    Gay Americans serve in every facet of American life and despite relentless discrimination, have aquitted themselves admirably in many career fields including the military.

    I urge you to come into the 21st Century and allow science to ameliorate some of your more archaic and dangerous religious beliefs.

  • @Richard
    Your defense of homosexuality is irrelevant to the topic. As to your comment:

    same-sex attraction is not, repeat, not immoral.

    You don’t question the legitimacy of a moral judgment, just the conclusion. What is the basis for your moral judgment on homosexuality? To put it another way, what would it take for you to say something was immoral?

  • Any comment on the four Camp Pendleton Marines who were recently arrested for attacking a man who had just exited a gay bar in Long Beach? Is this the appropriate way to respond to “immoral behavior”?

  • @JD
    I question the legitimacy of many moral judgements as rendered for religious reasons. Morality is not the exclusive domain of religion but rather an implementation of societal mores. Morality can have small differences in different societies. With or without religion morality is pretty much standard throughout world populations.

    I see morality as a broad spectrum of actions all or a majority of which would be developed even in non-religious circumstances. Lying, cheating, stealing and other breaking of the law, criminal and constitutional, warmongering, killing, religious and political hegemony and discrimination, molestation of children and the mentally disabled, rape (legitimate or otherwise) LOL, coercive religious proselytizing, Using position or rank to elicit sex or other favors, extortion, bigotry, sexual promiscuity of any type, plagiarism, you know, that kind of stuff.

  • @Alex
    Your argument fails logically for two reason: Criminal assault is wrong regardless. In addition, you insinuate a motive on the part of the Marines, while no such fact has been publicly stated.

    Your reply ignores the fact there are secular arguments against the normalization of homosexuality.

    You also imply your definition of morality is fluid based on society’s whims — which is ironic, as you are constantly railing against “social mores” that are related to Christianity.

  • @JD
    Um, where did I make an argument? I was asking a question – in particular I was wondering why you hadn’t commented on this case yet. Normally you’re very quick to comment on anything in the news that deals with homosexuality and the military.

  • @Alex
    You connected an incident in California with an unrelated discussion. You were unsuccessfully attempting to frame an argument. The incident has nothing to do with homosexuality and the military.

  • @JD
    JD, You said: Your reply ignores the fact there are secular arguments against the normalization of homosexuality.

    You also imply your definition of morality is fluid based on society’s whims — which is ironic, as you are constantly railing against “social mores” that are related to Christianity.

    There are secular bigots as well as religious ones. Religion, Christianity in particular, certainly leads the field with institutionalized bigotry whereas discrimination in the secular world is pretty much on an individual basis.

    There are no “social mores” related to Christianity, only doctrines. Homogeneous religious population groups subscribe mainly to religious law in all things and social norms are secondary, if that. Religion’s organized discrimination is a product of centuries of conditioning and mind control. Therefore the social structures driven by religion would actually be “Gang Mores.”

    Morality actually is fluid based on Society’s whims. I offer “moral eras” such as the Victorian period and licentious sixties.

  • Hi Richard. I’m trying to understand how a fluid morality works.

    Is it a global society that decides these things, or by country, or even cities/neighborhoods? For example where I live, prostitution is illegal. From that it could be inferred that society has deemed it immoral, thus making it illegal (I’m not entirely sure why else it would be illegal). But in Las Vegas, it is legal when the brothel is licensed; so perhaps the society there does not see it as immoral. So if I get a prostitute here, it would be immoral, but if I went to Vegas, it would be moral?

    Or do things being legal and illegal have no bearing on morality? For example, in Mexico it is illegal to bribe an officer when you get pulled over in a traffic stop. It is also common practice and widely accepted. Moral?

    Are there, or have there ever been universal moral truths? For example, slavery was widely accepted in the world in the 1700’s. Was it moral then? Is it moral now? Or is it only moral in the countries where it is still legal to sell someone into forced labor?
    Which again brings up the question of legality and morality.

    I hope I have made my confusion evident. Can you clarify?

  • @end
    I think morality is an admixture of influences of many venues, Country, state, city, region, etc.

    Morality is often confused with custom and tradition. One man’s moral structure might be the bane of morality in a different locale.

    I do believe in a central code of morality that deals with most of the situations one may face in life which boils down to what is right and what is wrong. Morality is also a bottomless pit in which one can become totally lost.

    I say take each situation as it comes and make individual judgments. Common sense is generally a good guide.

    Also never get caught in the moral trap of going with the flow to be popular. By this I mean don’t go along with institutional discrimination so as to flourish in your peer group.

    I think that most of us have been in our environment for some time and have adjust to its societal mores. These mores combined with our personal standards should serve us well.

  • Richard,
    Thank you. That helped clear up a lot of my confusion.

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