USA — Survey Will Permit Informed Decisions, Official Says

WASHINGTON — Atti­tudes of the force to be gleaned from a sur­vey on the pos­si­ble repeal of the law that bans gays and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary will allow lead­ers to make informed deci­sions, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.

Mor­rell said many sto­ries that have result­ed from advo­ca­cy groups leak­ing a 103-ques­tion sur­vey e‑mailed this week to 400,000 ser­vice­mem­bers “have been inflam­ma­to­ry in the worst case, and mis­lead­ing in the best case.”

Defense Depart­ment offi­cials want­ed the sur­vey to remain con­fi­den­tial, Mor­rell said, but the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the sur­vey to 200,000 active duty ser­vice­mem­bers and 200,000 reserve-com­po­nent per­son­nel worked against that aim.

The sur­vey was designed to be a con­fi­den­tial con­ver­sa­tion between the a Defense Depart­ment work­ing group study­ing the mat­ter, in par­tic­u­lar, and a large rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the force, Mor­rell said.

“We thought it would be break­ing faith with them for us to be proac­tive­ly shar­ing the sur­vey,” he said, “because what we are try­ing to do is pre­serve the cred­i­bil­i­ty and integri­ty of the answers that it elic­its from the force.”

Advo­ca­cy groups on both sides of the ques­tion released the sur­vey, and Mor­rell said the out­side influ­ence is not help­ful to the process.

The sur­vey is designed to get the atti­tudes of the force on how to pro­ceed if Con­gress repeals the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, and is not a ref­er­en­dum on whether or not the law should be repealed, Mor­rell said. The answers, he added, will inform the work­ing group’s delib­er­a­tions.

Pen­ta­gon offi­cials worked with a pro­fes­sion­al and rep­utable polling firm to pro­duce the sur­vey, Mor­rell not­ed. Rough­ly the first third of the 103 ques­tions seeks demo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion. The sec­ond third asks about pro­fes­sion­al and mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence. The final third asks how the law’s repeal might affect the indi­vid­ual being sur­veyed, he explained. The work­ing group led by Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, com­man­der of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh John­son, the Defense Department’s gen­er­al coun­sel, already has spo­ken with 14,000 ser­vice­mem­bers, Mor­rell said. Anoth­er 33,000 ser­vice­mem­bers have inter­act­ed with the depart­ment elec­tron­i­cal­ly, he added.

Of the respons­es to date, Mor­rell said, many includ­ed con­cerns about pri­va­cy issues. “Clear­ly,” he said, “a com­po­nent of this sci­en­tif­ic sur­vey had to deal with pri­va­cy ques­tions.” Ten sur­vey ques­tions address pri­va­cy issues sur­round­ing bathing facil­i­ties, liv­ing facil­i­ties and social set­tings.

“We think it would be irre­spon­si­ble to con­duct a sur­vey that did­n’t address these ques­tions,” Mor­rell said, “because when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed, we will have to deter­mine if there are any chal­lenges in those par­tic­u­lar areas, any adjust­ments that need to be made in terms of how we edu­cate the force, or per­haps even facil­i­ty adjust­ments that need to be made to deal with those sce­nar­ios.

“But we won’t know any of that until we get a sense from the force of their atti­tudes,” he con­tin­ued. “It could turn out, based on this sur­vey, that there are far few­er con­cerns than we are led to believe. There could more or dif­fer­ent con­cerns than we had antic­i­pat­ed.”

But Defense Depart­ment offi­cials need the infor­ma­tion gen­er­at­ed from this sur­vey to make smart deci­sions, Mor­rell said.

“We need peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in this sur­vey to get a sci­en­tif­ic under­stand­ing of the atti­tudes of the force, or the con­cerns, or issues or oppor­tu­ni­ties that may result from a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he said.

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