LOS ANGELES, CA — September 10, 2012 — The first academic study of the effects of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) has found that the new policy of open service has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale, according to a new story on The Huffington Post. Co-authors of the study, whose publication coincides with the anniversary of DADT repeal, include professors at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Marine Corps War College.
According to Dr. Aaron Belkin, the lead author of the study, "The U.S. Military has set an international standard with the smooth transition to openly gay service." In 2009, more than 1,000 retired generals and admirals signed a statement predicting that DADT repeal would "break the All-Volunteer Force." Belkin is director of the Palm Center, the research institute that published today's study.
While the media has reported impressionistic observations about the impact of DADT repeal, today's study is the first scholarly analysis of the topic. To determine whether repeal has compromised the military, the study's co-authors pursued multiple research methodologies including in-depth interviews, on-site field observations of military units, and survey analysis. They made extensive efforts to identify evidence that repeal has harmed the armed forces, including soliciting the views of 553 retired generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, of all known expert and activist opponents of repeal, and of major anti-repeal organizations.
Notable findings of the new study include: (1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal; (2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study's co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal; (3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal; (4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal; (5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.
Contrary to expectations, the co-authors found evidence that repeal has improved trust among the troops, and has enabled service members to resolve problems in ways that were not possible while DADT remained law. For example, one soldier told them that in the initial period after repeal, he continued to hear derogatory language by some in his unit. Yet when he spoke with them about leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved. "They don't agree," he said, "but they were willing to be professional." The soldier added that frank discussions are now less risky because of repeal, that honesty helped disabuse his colleagues of preconceived notions about gay people, and that ultimately, problems were "completely resolved."
The Palm Center is a research institute committed to sponsoring state-of-the-art scholarship to enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial issues of the day. For the past decade, the Palm Center's research on sexual minorities in the military has been published in leading social scientific journals. The Palm Center seeks to be a resource for university-affiliated as well as independent scholars, students, journalists, opinion leaders, and members of the public. The study can be found at www.palmcenter.org