USA — ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Feedback Sought From Spouses

WASHINGTON — Pen­ta­gon offi­cials today mailed out 150,000 new “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” sur­veys, this time seek­ing input from mil­i­tary spous­es about the poten­tial repeal of the law that bars gay men and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly, offi­cials said.

“We under­stand the inex­tri­ca­ble link between the fam­i­lies, ser­vice­mem­bers and readi­ness, and this sur­vey is a way to try to bet­ter under­stand that,” Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, U.S. Army Europe com­man­der, said in a recent Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel inter­view.

Ham and Jeh C. John­son, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, were appoint­ed by Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates to head a spe­cial review pan­el that’s study­ing the pos­si­ble impli­ca­tions on the mil­i­tary should Con­gress decide to repeal the cur­rent “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and allow gays and les­bians to serve open­ly.

“What we’re try­ing to gauge is an assess­ment that if this law is repealed, and this ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ pol­i­cy is changed, what will that mean to our fam­i­lies?” Ham said. “By bet­ter under­stand­ing the impacts of pos­si­ble repeal, we’ll be able to craft poli­cies, pro­ce­dures, edu­ca­tion and train­ing to address those issues.”

The group has been meet­ing with troops and fam­i­ly mem­bers since Feb­ru­ary. The sur­veys are impor­tant to the panel’s research, Ham added, because time and finan­cial con­straints pre­clude meet­ing with every ser­vice­mem­ber and spouse.

The sur­veys give the pan­el a base­line of infor­ma­tion that best rep­re­sents the military’s 2.2 mil­lion ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, the gen­er­al said. Last month, 400,000 sur­veys were e-mailed to active duty and reserve-com­po­nent troops through­out the force. The dead­line for their response was Aug. 15.

The spouse sur­vey is some­what dif­fer­ent from the one tak­en by the ser­vice­mem­bers, Ham said, not­ing the spouse sur­vey is not as lengthy or com­pre­hen­sive, and it “zeroes in” on fam­i­ly readi­ness.

Also, he added, the spouse sur­vey is a hard-copy form, rather than the dig­i­tal e-mail form troops received. It should take spous­es about 15 to 20 min­utes to com­plete, he said. “We know there’s a very real con­nec­tion between fam­i­ly readi­ness and mil­i­tary readi­ness,” Ham said. “We want to make sure we under­stand what that dynam­ic might be if the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ pol­i­cy were to change.”

The spouse sur­vey respons­es, like those of the ser­vice­mem­bers’ sur­vey, are con­fi­den­tial, the gen­er­al said.

Ham empha­sized that the sur­veys and respons­es for both groups can’t be traced. The com­pa­ny man­ag­ing the sur­vey dis­tri­b­u­tion and results-gath­er­ing is not a Defense Depart­ment orga­ni­za­tion and “does not have access to per­son­al­ly iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion to mil­i­tary mem­bers,” he explained.

Feed­back from mil­i­tary spous­es is an impor­tant aspect in the review, Ham said. The pan­el wants to know if spous­es will be less like­ly to sup­port their ser­vice­mem­ber con­tin­u­ing his ser­vice if the law changes, Ham said.

“We know for our mar­ried ser­vice­mem­bers, the most impor­tant influ­ence on whether or not that ser­vice­mem­ber decides to con­tin­ue his ser­vice is his spouse,” he said. “So we need to know what the effects would be if the law was changed.”

The spouse sur­veys were mailed to 80,000 reserve-com­po­nent and 70,000 active duty spous­es. The spous­es will have a lit­tle more than 30 days to com­plete and return their sur­veys, Ham said.

For spous­es who weren’t select­ed, but want to offer their opin­ion on the poten­tial impact of repeal, Ham sug­gest­ed using the online inbox at The site is not con­fi­den­tial and requires a mil­i­tary com­mon access card to log on. The online inbox will be avail­able until Aug. 30. This tool will allow any­one who didn’t receive the sur­vey to offer feed­back and remain anony­mous.

“We know that for our mar­ried ser­vice­mem­bers, their spous­es’ views, the spous­es’ sat­is­fac­tion with the qual­i­ty of ser­vice and the fam­i­ly readi­ness direct­ly attrib­ut­es to mil­i­tary readi­ness,” the gen­er­al said. “Sec­re­tary Gates was focused at the very start to make sure that we under­stood what impact a pos­si­ble repeal would mean to our fam­i­ly mem­bers.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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