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.