December 28, 2011

USA Today Mischaracterizes Military Attitudes About DADT Repeal

New Study is Based on Old Data

LOS ANGELES — December 28, 2011 — Paul Bedard, author of a USA Today political blog, has suggested that a new study shows that military academy cadets are reacting negatively to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  According to Bedard’s December 27 post, the study finds that, “Half of the military’s youngest officers oppose gays serving in the military, with conservative male military academy cadets especially hostile to President Obama’s year-old repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The new study, titled “Civilian, ROTC, and Military Academy Undergraduate Attitudes toward Homosexuals in the U.S. Military,” appears in the current edition of Armed Forces & Society, a prestigious, social-scientific journal focusing on civil-military relations.

According to Aaron Belkin, however, Bedard has mischaracterized the study’s findings. “The survey data on which this newly-published study is based were collected from 2002 to 2007,” said Belkin. “Hence, the data do not speak to how service members are feeling now. Rather, the data show that between 2002 and 2007, a majority of military academy cadets agreed with ‘barring homosexuals from serving in the military.’”

Belkin said that perhaps the most interesting finding to emerge from the data is that between 2002 and 2007, incoming military academy freshmen indicated significant opposition to gay and lesbian troops, but that by the time of their graduation four years later, their opposition dropped precipitously. “Surprisingly, military culture appears to have made cadets more tolerant of gays and lesbians, not less.” Belkin, who collected some of the data on which the new study is based, is director of the Palm Center at UCLA’s Williams Institute as well as Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University.

Christopher Neff, deputy director of the Palm Center, adds that the key question is not whether service members favor or oppose repeal, but whether repeal has an impact on readiness. “The Pentagon took a year to study this question,” Neff said, “and military researchers concluded that repeal posed little risk to readiness.  The recent comments of Marine Commandant Amos seem to confirm the Pentagon’s research.” In November, Amos said that repeal had been a “non-event.”

The Palm Center is planning to conduct a study on whether or not repeal has undermined readiness, with results to be published in the fall of 2012, and Belkin said that Palm researchers have identified numerous strategies to uncover negative evidence. The Pentagon is also expected to release its own assessment in 2012.