Lifting DADT has helped, not harmed the US military

Academic study one year on from repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ shows no negative impact on US forces from having openly gay fighters

Lifting DADT has helped, not harmed the US military
12 September 2012

One year after the US military lifted it’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ ban on openly gay service people, the change has had no negative consequences.

That’s according to the first academic study on the results of the lifting of the ban, published this week by the Palm Center a research branch of the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School.

It found having openly gay and lesbian personnel had not damaged military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale in any way.

Prior to the repeal of the 1993 Clinton-presidency law, which allowed gay people to serve in the US military but refused to let them be out, some military chiefs had warned having open gays in their ranks would have disastrous consequences for the armed forces.

One letter, signed by more than 1,000 military officers, claimed that repeal would undermine recruiting efforts, negatively affect ‘troop readiness’ and ‘eventually break the All-Volunteer Force’.

The founding director of the Palm Centre, Aaron Belkin, and author of the study states: ‘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.’

Tammy Schultz, a gay professor of national security and joint warfare at US Marine Corps Academy, a long-time advocate for repealing the ban and one of the authors, is relieved by the findings.

She told the Huffington Post: ‘The fact that we didn’t find that, personally I felt relief that I was right, honestly.

‘I just have so much respect for members of the armed services and would never have wanted to hurt someone.’

Schultz states that the study showed that the repeal actually improved trust and cohesion among the troops.

A soldier is quoted saying that initially after repeal he continued to hear derogatory anti-gay language from some in his unit.

‘Yet when he confronted them and spoke about their behavior in terms of leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved,’ the study said.

‘They don’t agree, but they were willing to be professional about it,’ the report says.

‘Frank discussions, which are now far less risky because of repeal, helped disabuse them of preconceived notions about gay people and that ultimately, problems were “completely resolved” through discussion of the fact that he was respected before he was out, and that nothing had changed by his acknowledgement of his sexual orientation.’

In recent weeks, however gay-rights advocates have expressed their concerns that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, if elected, may reinstate ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’.

In a recent interview the platform promises to ‘reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation’.

And it also states that Republicans will conduct an ‘objective and open-minded review of the current administration’s management of military personnel policies and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action.’

Last September Rick Santorum, one of Romney’s primary opponents, now kicked out of the race, fielded a YouTube question from an openly gay soldier in Iraq who wanted to know about Santorum’s position on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’.

‘We would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum were president,’ was the reply.

In the interview on Fox when the producers cut away from the shot of the soldier, several members of the studio audience could be heard booing at him.

However in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board a few months later, Romney said: ‘I’m not planning on reversing [the repeal] ‘at this stage.’

The Palm Center study reflects other findings, including a poll after five months of the ban being lifted which showed 69% of active duty personnel felt there had been no repercussions.

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