USA — Gates, Mullen Urge Participation in Survey

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2010 — Not­ing the impor­tance of get­ting the opin­ions of those who would be most affect­ed by a pos­si­ble repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that bans gays and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today urged ser­vice­mem­bers to pro­vide their input.

About 400,000 ser­vice­mem­bers are receiv­ing an e‑mail sur­vey seek­ing their opin­ions, and the depart­ment has an online inbox at for addi­tion­al feed­back from com­mon access card hold­ers.

“I think it is very impor­tant for us to under­stand from our men and women in uni­form the chal­lenges that they see,” Gates said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence today, not­ing that the depart­ment needs their views on the sub­ject and the chal­lenges they see to imple­ment­ing a pos­si­ble change to the law.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the depart­ment needs objec­tive infor­ma­tion that the sur­vey can deliv­er, and empha­sized that no one is draw­ing con­clu­sions about the sur­vey until it is fin­ished.

“To reach out at this point and try to pre­dict either what they might say or what the results might say, I just think it’s too ear­ly with respect to that,” the chair­man said.

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, com­man­der of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh John­son, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, are lead­ing a review pan­el that’s assess­ing the cur­rent law.

“I would say that this sur­vey is a very impor­tant ele­ment of this effort, in part because while Gen­er­al Ham and Gen­er­al Coun­sel Jeh John­son have talked to thou­sands of troops in dozens of mil­i­tary facil­i­ties, we have got­ten sev­er­al tens of thou­sands of com­ments and views by e‑mail in response to the request for people’s thoughts on this,” Gates said. “This size sam­pling is obvi­ous­ly the most sig­nif­i­cant ele­ment of get­ting the views of the troops.”

The sur­vey – released yes­ter­day – will go to 200,000 active duty ser­vice­mem­bers and 200,000 reserve-com­po­nent per­son­nel. Offi­cials esti­mate it will take 30 min­utes to com­plete the sur­vey, and the dead­line for return­ing them is Aug. 15. Anoth­er sur­vey will go to 150,000 fam­i­ly mem­bers in August.

Gates insist­ed on dou­bling the sam­ple size to its cur­rent lev­el.

“The orig­i­nal pro­pos­al was to sam­ple 100,000 active-duty and 100,000 in the reserve com­po­nent,” he said. “I strong­ly sug­gest­ed that they dou­ble the size of the sam­ple — that I want­ed a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of the force to have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to offer their views on this.”

The sur­vey is con­fi­den­tial, the sec­re­tary point­ed out.

“I strong­ly encour­age gays and les­bians who are in the mil­i­tary to fill out these forms,” Gates said. “We’ve orga­nized this in a way to pro­tect their pri­va­cy and the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty of their respons­es through a third par­ty, and it’s impor­tant that we hear from them as well as every­body else. But I think we’re sat­is­fied that this is an impor­tant ele­ment of this effort, and that it’s being done in a very pro­fes­sion­al way.”

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