Los Angeles — The first academic study of the effects of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) has found that the new policy allowing openly gay service members has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
The results of the study are in direct contrast to the stark warnings issued by the critics and opponents of the repeal.
“For almost twenty years, experts predicted that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would harm the military,” said Aaron Belkin, the founding director of the Palm Center- a research branch of the Williams Institute at UCLA’s Law School- and lead author of the study. “Now the evidence is in, and the conclusion is clear: repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ did not harm the military, and if anything made it easier for the Pentagon to pursue its mission.”
Those sentiments were echoed by U.S. Marine Commandant General James Amos, who during a National Press Club luncheon in Washington last month, stressed that the integration of openly gay and lesbians into the military has gone smoothly.
“I don’t think there is a problem,” said General Amos. “I don’t see it. I don’t hear about it.”
Amos’ comments came nearly a year after the repeal of the Pentagon’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members officially took effect.
Amos had previously told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his 2010 confirmation hearing that he opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
One of the study’s authors, Tammy Schultz, an openly lesbian professor and director of national security and joint warfare at the U.S. Marine Corps War College, said she was relieved by the findings.
“I just have so much respect for members of the armed services and would never have wanted to hurt someone,” Schultz said. “The fact that we didn’t find that, personally I felt relief that I was right, honestly.”
Schultz noted that the study showed that the repeal actually improved trust and cohesion among the troops.
The study’s authors wrote, in their Executive Summary:
We sought to maximize the likelihood of identifying evidence of damage caused by repeal by pursuing ten separate research strategies, each of which was designed to uncover data indicating that repeal has undermined the military.
Our research strategies included outreach to 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, to all major activists and expert opponents of DADT repeal and to 18 watchdog organizations, including opponents and advocates of repeal, who are known for their ability to monitor Pentagon operations.
In addition, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 scholars and practitioners and 62 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch, as well as on-site field observations of four military units. We analyzed relevant media articles published during the research period, administered two surveys and conducted secondary source analysis of surveys independently administered by outside organizations.
Our vigorous effort to collect data from opponents of DADT repeal, including anti-repeal generals and admirals, activists, academic experts, service members and watchdog organizations, should sustain confidence in the validity and impartiality of our findings.
Donnelly warned that “the flag and general officers for the military, 1,167 to date, 51 of them former four-stars, said that this law, if repealed, could indeed break the All-Volunteer Force. They chose that word very carefully. They have a lot of military experience… and they know what they’re talking about.”
Critics had also warned about the dire affects repealing the law would have on the Chaplain Corps and their mission to provide faithful support and instruction.
But the study’s authors noted:
Even among chaplains, the evidence suggests that DADT repeal has had no measurable impact on retention. Chaplains were thought to be among those most likely to leave the military after DADT repeal, in part because contracts allow them to resign more quickly than other military members, and many threatened to resign if LGB troops were allowed to serve openly. Such concerns, however, have proven to be unwarranted.
This past June, the U.S. Department of Defense celebrated its first ever “Pride” event.
Panetta noted that it was important to recognize the service of gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces.