Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal a Non-Issue in Military a Year Later

Until the September 2011 repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ,the United States, alongside Turkey, made up the only North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries that forbid gays from serving openly in the military. The public policy group Palm Center has just released a study to mark the upcoming anniversary of the repeal. The study’ s researchers aimed to test whether predictions that the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would “harm the military” beared out in reality. Marine Corps Gen. James Amoswas one of the most prominent supporters of keeping DADT, arguing that its reversal would affect troops’ “combat effectiveness.” However, the study’s authors concluded that “DADT repeal has not had any overall negative effect on the armed forces, and that predictions of dire consequences were incorrect.”

There hasn’t been “any measureable impact” on the recruitment and retention of service members . There was not any large-scale resiganations over the policy reversal, excpet for two resignations linked directly to the repeal – both resignees were chaplains from the Navy and Army.

In the middle of the study, reserachers pointed out a positive impact of the repeal on recruitment: the military’s Reserve Office Training Corps program would be invited back to universities that banned them for decades.

And several prestigiosu universities have reversed their policy against the ROTC program. Stanford University voted to welcome the program back in April 2011. Columbia University reinstated the Naval ROTC program in May 2011, stipulating in an agreement that “formal recognition” would begin on the effective date of DADT’s repeal in September 2011. Harvard and Yale University also reversed their ROTC policies after the congressional vote to repeal DADT.

Researchers, including professors at the U.S. Naval and Air Force academies, contributed the repeal’s success to four variables. The main two factors repeated throughout the study were that (1) gay and heterosexual service members mainated a high-degree of professionalism and treated the repeal as a “non-issue.” And the repeal’s implementation went smoothly because (2) service members who were ardent oppontents were a small minority.

The fact that there was not a mass self-disclosure among gay service members to cause hysteria was also another factor. Raw data survey provided to the researchers by the Military Times showed that only 19.4 percent of 750 service members surveyed reported a member of their unit coming out after the repeal.

Lastly, the authors believe that the repeal allowed closeted service members to challenge the view of oppontens to the repeal without fear of being “separated” from the military. This open interaction allowed for repeal opponents to reconsider their views of gays and the policy.

Naval War College Professor Mackubin Owen, an critic of the repeal mentioned in the study, said that a year was not sufficient to survey the impact of DADT’s repeal. Yet the study’s authors reject that claim

Opponents who predicted that DADT repeal would undermine the military rarely said that time would have to pass before negative consequences would emerge, and usually implied that the onset of at least some dire consequences would be immediate. Now that Pentagon leaders have indicated an absence of difficulties, however, opponents are starting to emphasize the possibility of future, long- term problems that will only emerge in the distant wake of repeal.

If repeal were going to cause adjustment problems, at least some of those problems—or indications of their imminence—should have emerged in the immediate wake of the policy transition, when a culture shock was still possible….

The complete story of DADT’s repeal cannot yet be told as the author’s noted, since among other things, same-sex familes are not permitted to have on-base housing. But this preliminary report suggests that all the foreboding talk about the repeal was baseless.

Derrick Haynes

Derrick Haynes is an intern at the Washington Monthly.