"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Study Hits Snag: Asking
As part of the White House push to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, the Pentagon is conducting a study on the impact of repealing the policy.
The two men in charge of the study, Gen. Carter F. Ham and Jeh C. Johnson, have been instructed to speak to rank and file members of the military to get their opinions about repeal -- including service members who are gay.
But therein lies a problem: If a member of the military tells the Pentagon they are gay, they are, essentially, telling -- and thus risking being kicked out of the armed forces. (By the same token, those conducting the survey are not supposed to be asking.)
The solution? Get a third-party pollster to do the questioning. The Washington Post interviewed Ham, who said the study will likely reach out to gay service members through an outside group.
"These groups have some pretty masterful ways of reaching out to what they call hidden groups in larger communities," he told the newspaper.
Ham noted that if a service member told him or another Department of Defense official that he or she is gay, "then I'd almost certainly be required to pursue that" and open a formal investigation.
Then again, it seems like it's harder and harder to actually get kicked out of the military for being gay: The secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, said yesterday that, as the New York Times puts it, he is "effectively ignoring" the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and not pursing discharges of service members who have acknowledged their homosexuality. (UPDATE: McHugh walked back his comments to some degree on Thursday, saying there is not a moratorium on the law.)
In addition, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week announced new standards making it harder to oust gay troops in what he said was a matter of "common sense and common decency."
While there seems to be momentum among military leaders to repeal the policy -- Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it "the right thing to do" -- there has also been some pushback.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, a three-star Army general, called on troops to oppose repeal of the policy in a letter to a military newspaper. McHugh said Wednesday that Mixon would not be disciplined for what critics said was an example of a member of the military using his rank to lobby for a position.
McHugh said Mixon now "recognizes it is inappropriate for him to become an advocate and try to shape the opinion of the force, rather than reach out and ascertain the opinion of the force."
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