October 15, 2010

Palm Center Challenges Flawed Pentagon Premise In New Court Filing

Pentagon Says it Cannot Do What it is Already Doing

Santa Barbara, Calif. – Today, the Palm Center responded to the Pentagon’s declaration, issued as part of the Department of Justice’s filing in the Log Cabin Republicans v. United States case. The declaration opposes any immediate suspension of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on the grounds that it would be “likely to impair unit cohesion, good order, discipline, and military readiness.” It also stated that “the stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order.”

“The Pentagon is stating that it cannot do what it is currently successfully doing,” stated Christopher Neff, Deputy Executive Director at the Palm Center. Added Neff: “What is most concerning about the Pentagon’s filing is the central thesis throughout, that openly gay troops are something new in the military. As several studies have demonstrated, roughly two thirds of service members already know or suspect that they know a gay or lesbian peer in their unit. Our service members already know how to treat gay and lesbian service members appropriately because they do so every day.”

The Pentagon filing, a declaration by Clifford L. Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, insists that service members must be trained in at least five different areas, including how the policy has changed, why the policy has changed, and appropriate treatment of gay and lesbian service members.

Aaron Belkin, Palm Center Director, stated: “The Pentagon is arguing that implementing repeal is a delicate, thorny and complicated process requiring extraordinary training. This ignores the key findings of 25 foreign militaries that have allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly. Some of these forces, such as the Israeli military, offered no training at all. In other cases, such as the British military, training was minimal. In every case, experts concluded after the fact that the transition to an inclusive policy had been a non-event. This is true even in cases in which disaster was predicted.”

A 1992 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on gays in the military quoted a past Defense Department review by PERSEREC in 1986, which found that the same arguments for banning homosexuals were used during integration, stating:

“The order to integrate blacks was first met with stout resistance by traditionalists in the military establishment. Dire consequences were predicted for maintaining discipline, building group morale, and achieving military organizational goals. None of these predictions of doom has come true.”

Added Belkin: “The Pentagon’s central thesis ignores research by the RAND Corporation and other military and military-affiliated scholars who concluded that the transition to inclusive policy is not difficult as long as leaders insist that service members work together, regardless of their personal beliefs. Contrary to the Pentagon’s demand for an extensive time period to prepare, the 1993 RAND corporation recommended that the Pentagon ‘[a]ct quickly,’ arguing that ‘[l]essons from the implementation literature suggest that the new policy regarding homosexuals in the military should be decided upon and implemented as quickly as possible.'” (p. 381).

A copy of the journal article on the survey of troops’ views on gay and lesbian service members is available here.