One Year Since the Repeal of DADT: No Story At All?
“Repeal [of don’t ask, don’t tell] would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
— March 2009 statement signed by 1,167 retired admirals and generals, 51 of them former four-stars.
On September 20 it will be a year since the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy banning homosexuals from openly serving in our armed forces was repealed, and the sky has not fallen.
But what do I know. I just go by what I read.
And I read in the New York Times that as the country approaches the first anniversary of the repeal of DADT, “politicians and others who warned of disastrous consequences if gay people were allowed to serve openly in the military are looking pretty foolish.”
But. of course, that is the “liberal” New York Times talking — or writing.
But wait, the Times bases this somewhat blasé remark on a detailed 43-page study report, “One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness,” prepared by the prestigious Palm Center, a branch of the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law.
According to the the Palm Center, the research team included distinguished scholars from the US Military Academy, US Air Force Academy, US Naval Academy and U.S. Marine Corps War College, as well as scholars with internationally recognized expertise on the issue of gays in the military, including several members who advised the Pentagon’s 2010 DADT working group, and one member who led the team that drafted the Defense Department’s plan for implementing DADT repeal.
The Center’s study team reached out 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.
The team also 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. Finally, the team analyzed relevant media articles, administered surveys and conducted analyses of surveys independently administered by outside organizations.
What did the study — “the first scholarly effort to assess the accuracy of such predictions about the impact of DADT repeal on military readiness” — show?
Our conclusion, based on all of the evidence available to us, is that DADT repeal has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. Although we identified a few downsides that followed from the policy change, we identified upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh benefits. If anything, DADT repeal appears to have enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission.
These findings are in stark contrast to the gloomy, dire predictions we heard prior to and immediately after the repeal of DADT from 1,167 retired admirals and generals and from many other “experts,” pundits and politicians.
Today, we hear positive comments not only from “think tanks,” but also from high-ranking Defense and military officials and generals, such as the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, who at a press conference in May said that the repeal DADT is “not impacting on morale. It’s not impacting on unit cohesion. It is not impacting on readiness.” “Very frankly, my view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it…It’s become part and parcel of what they’ve accepted within the military,” Panetta said.
During the same conference, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, said that he has not seen “any negative effect on good order and discipline” resulting from the repeal, and “We were given a year to make this assessment, to educate ourselves, to collaborate, to build a sense of trust on this issue. And given that time to do it, I think it worked out well.”
In its September issue, the respected Armed Forces Journal features an article where James E. Parco, an associate professor of economics and business at Colorado College, and David A. Levy, a professor of management at the Air Force Academy, summarize:
The negative effects predicted by [DADT] supporters — mass resignations, declines in recruiting, degraded unit cohesion, impaired military effectiveness, decrease morale and disciplinary problems — have yet to materialize.
What has been observed since Sept. 20  is what was predicted by scholarly research: a strong similarity between the U.S. experience and those of allied militaries that had repealed their gay exclusion policies over the previous two decades…As the latest empirical evidence is now beginning to show, the repeal of DADT has been nothing but a positive story, largely because it has been no story at all.
The authors are right. In a way, it has been “no story at all,” and that’s good. However, it certainly has been a story — a tragic story — for the approximately one million men and women who have served their country honorably, many times heroically, while denying and betraying their dignity— their own being; for the men and women who have been discharged simply because they were gay or lesbian; for the men and women who have received every military award and decoration from the Purple Heart to the Air Medal for Heroism “while being gay.”
For them it is a whole other story.
Edited to add a link to source