Congress Should be Skeptical of Pentagon's Biased and Incomplete Surveys on Homosexuality in the MilitaryBy Bob Maginnis Senior Fellow for National Security
President Obama has vowed to repeal the 1993 law (10 U.S.C. 654) which codified the military's exclusion of homosexuals (usually referred to as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"). This paper provides background on the president's call for repeal and the Pentagon's study of the issue that includes the collection of service member views about homosexuality. The Pentagon is expected to deliver the results of its study to Congress in early December 2010.
The Pentagon study used six instruments to collect service member views about homosexuality and the proposed repeal, the most critical aspect of the study. Those instruments include closed door town hall-like meetings followed by focus groups and two confidential web-based comment sites. However, these instruments lack the scientific rigor of random sampling allegedly used by two Pentagon surveys, one for military members and another for their spouses. But those surveys are suspect.
The military member survey ignores important questions and has serious flaws.
- It fails to ask whether the homosexual ban should be repealed and whether the respondent is homosexual.
- It asks numerous questions about the impact perceived homosexuals have on unit performance and for a variety of undefined military concepts like readiness. The poll fails to corroborate the validity of the perceptions.
- It presents homosexuality -- which is not defined -- as a neutral factor and privacy questions only offer accommodation answers.
- Only one in four members randomly selected to participate in the survey actually participated.
The military spouse survey has similar flaws.
- It fails to ask whether the homosexual ban should be repealed and the impact of open homosexuality for military children.
- It does not address religious and moral objections to homosexuality nor define homosexuality.
- It does not address privacy and spousal concerns about open homosexual behavior in the military community.
- It assumes homosexual couples will receive the same benefits as married heterosexual military couples--although granting such benefits would likely violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Congress should insist on receiving detailed results from these surveys, carefully scrutinize how the Pentagon uses the views collected from these six instruments, and reject any analysis based on unscientific and or biased questioning.
The Pentagon will deliver to Congress a report regarding the proposed repeal of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law by early December 2010. For Congress the most important part of that report should be what the all-volunteer force says about repeal. But the Obama Pentagon used biased and incomplete instruments to collect service member views, which makes the report highly suspect.
This paper provides background regarding the current homosexual exclusion law, President Obama's call for repeal of that law, a review of the Pentagon's instructions for preparing a report that supports repeal, and an analysis of the instruments used to query service members regarding repeal with special emphasis on two Pentagon surveys.
MILITARY'S HOMOSEXUAL BAN
The American military has had policies against homosexual conduct dating to George Washington's Continental Army. However, in 1993 President Clinton directed then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to prepare for "ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation" in the military.
After studying the issue of open homosexuality in the military the Clinton Pentagon prepared a report for Congress. That report states open homosexuals in units with soldiers opposed to homosexuality would seriously impair cohesion and military readiness. Congress used that report to write the 1993 law, 10 U.S.C. 654, the "Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces," which concludes:
"The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."
U.S. appellate courts have consistently upheld the law and there have not been serious threats to the ban until President Obama took office.
PRESIDENT OBAMA CALLS FOR REPEAL
President Obama used his 2010 State of the Union address to set in motion the fulfillment of his campaign promise to repeal the military's 17-year-old homosexual exclusion law. "I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said.
On March 2, Gates formed the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) to "consider how best to implement a repeal" of 10 U.S.C 654 which is often confused with the Pentagon's implementing regulation known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Gates directed the CRWG to "examine the issues associated with repeal" and develop "an implementation plan that addresses the impacts" by December 1. Most importantly he wrote, "I believe it essential that the working group systematically engage the force."
Engaging the all-volunteer force regarding the president's proposal is critical. Congress not the president has the constitutional responsibility under Article 1, Section 8 "to raise and support armies" and "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."  That is why it is Congress' responsibility and not the president's to decide whether repealing 10 U.S.C. 654 best serves the nation's security interests.
Therefore, Congress must weigh the merits of the repeal proposal to determine whether it jeopardizes combat effectiveness, readiness, morale, and especially retention and recruitment. That is why the views of our combat-hardened, all-volunteer force which will carry the burden of this decision must receive very serious consideration. Our troops are the best barometer for determining whether the world's best military is being foolishly put at risk by President Obama's proposed radical social experiment.
Mr. Gates directed the CRWG to carry out its mission "in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner." Congress must closely study the CRWG's report to ascertain whether it lived up to the secretary's mandate to produce a trustworthy representation of our volunteers' views before deciding whether repeal jeopardizes the force. After all, a repeal decision that sends large numbers of volunteer service members packing, or keeps those with the greatest willingness to serve from enlisting, could ultimately force Congress to face the prospect of a politically unpopular draft.
Finally, Congress must remember our all-volunteer force is drawn from a very narrow demographic that could potentially react negatively to repeal. The pool of potential volunteer service members is shrinking with only 25 percent of the nation's 17-to 24-year-old eligible for military service and only a fraction of those demonstrate a willingness to volunteer. That shrinking pool of potential volunteers is drawn from a small segment of the population: middle class, the south and mountain west, conservative and religious families, and more often than not from families with a history of military service.
Secretary Gates formed the CRWG to "consider how best to implement a repeal of this [the homosexual exclusion] law." The group's terms of reference (TOR) instruct it to assess "the implications of such a repeal," "develop an implementation plan for any new statutory mandate," "understand all issues and potential impacts associated with repeal," and "how to manage implementation in a way that minimizes disruption to a force engaging in combat operations."
The more than 50-member all-service CRWG staff organized itself to address these requirements under the leadership of Obama appointee Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's General Counsel, and General Carter Ham, Commander for U.S. Army Europe.
The secretary wrote "an integral element of this review shall be to assess and consider the impacts, if any, a change in the law would have on military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion." This was the very heart of the justification for the law, which was based on the Pentagon's 1993 Military Working Group's (MWG) comprehensive review of the issue.
The MWG's report to Congress argued for an exclusion policy based on the threat posed by open homosexuality to combat effectiveness in terms of unit cohesion (bonding, leadership, privacy) and readiness (medical, recruiting, and retention). The MWG also examined a number of practical considerations such as billeting and the impact on military families. For a more thorough explanation of this issue see Family Research Council's booklet "Mission Compromised: How the Obama Administration is Drafting the Military into the Culture War."
CRWG ENGAGES THE FORCE AND THEIR FAMILIES
Secretary Gates directed the CRWG to systematically engage "all levels of the force and their families." The CRWG chose six engagement mechanisms for this task: town hall-like meetings, focus groups, and a third-party confidential system for homosexual service members to express their opinion, an online comment webpage, and two surveys.
The rationale for selecting these mechanisms, the methodology employed, and the results should be addressed in the CRWG's report. Very little about the first two mechanisms is publicly known - the town hall meetings and the focus groups - because they were closed to the public. More is known about the third-party system, the online webpage, and the survey instruments because copies were leaked to the public.
Mr. Johnson indicated the CRWG visited 51 military installations around the United States and in Europe, South Korea, and Japan to gather service member views. Approximately 23,000 military personnel participated in these town hall meetings called Information Exchange Forums (IEF). Those sessions began with a CRWG briefing followed by an opportunity for service members to ask questions about the impact of repealing the homosexual ban. Mr. Johnson indicated between 10 and 12 questions were taken from each group. CRWG members took notes at these sessions but the sessions were not recorded.
Focus groups were subsequently formed from each IEF and the issues associated with repeal were then explored in more detail. Mr. Johnson said the focus groups were "civil and respectful" and there was "no shortage of views." He feels "obliged to address issues our people raised" in the report to Congress. CRWG members took notes and like the IEF sessions the focus group proceedings were not recorded.
The CRWG hired a third-party to operate a system known as the "Westat Confidential Dialogue" for homosexual service members to express their opinions. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said more than 2,450 self-identified service members made submissions by mid-August, with 280 "self-identifying" themselves as homosexual. A writer on a homosexual blog boasted "I was able to get three different pin numbers to gain access to the online chat part of the survey three times, as three different people."
The CRWG also created an "Online Inbox -- for Military Service Members and their families only" to provide anonymous input to the working group. The web-based "Inbox" includes a cover page attributed to Mr. Johnson and General Ham. It introduces the CRWG's mission and then explains "in this Online Inbox, we ask that you provide your views on these issues, and we urge you to be open and honest with your responses. We look forward to hearing from you!" CRWG representatives indicated it received 67,000 comments by mid-August from the "Online Inbox" which took its last comments on September 30.
The fifth and sixth mechanisms used to collect service member and military spouse input were surveys. The CRWG paid $4.5 million to Westat of Rockville, MD., an experienced survey firm, to conduct the surveys. Together, the CRWG and Westat developed a methodology, a means of selecting a random sample, and then drafted the surveys, one for service members and the other for military spouses.
Also, but not part of the CRWG's report, Mr. Gates asked the Rand Corporation to update its independent 1993 National Defense Research Institute Report "On Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment." Likely, Rand will use some of the same mechanisms employed by the CRWG such as focus groups and surveys to update its report.
Rand's $1.3 million 1993 study was seriously flawed, however. It made inappropriate comparisons between the homosexual issue and the integration of African Americans, made false paralle ls with other militaries and paramilitaries, misused AIDS survey information, misrepresented the volumes of material available on cohesion, and downplayed the impact of homosexual behavior.
CRWG'S SERVICE MEMBER SURVEY
The CRWG's service member survey, which finished August 15, was E-mailed by Westat to 200,000 active duty and 200,000 reserve personnel asking for their views, but surprisingly only one in four (104,000) of those members responded. The poor response, which must be studied to ascertain if it is scientifically representative of the entire military, can be attributed to a combination of a very busy force, concern over confidentiality, and the perception the Obama administration had already made up its mind regarding repeal.
The 32-page survey consists of three basic question groupings with 110 questions (or question parts) and space for "other thoughts and opinions." There are baseline questions about the service member's background. There are questions about military experiences and questions about service with perceived homosexuals, and the effect those perceived homosexuals have for unit performance. Finally, there are questions about the impact repeal would have across a number of issues.
The survey has numerous flaws. It fails to ask the troops whether the homosexual ban should be repealed and doesn't explore all the consequences of lifting the ban such as health and polarization issues, which were addressed in the 1993 MWG report. The survey completely ignores issues of freedom of religion and speech for those who have moral or religious concerns about homosexual conduct, and it also ignores the impact on chaplains.
The survey assumes military respondents understand terms like morale, personal readiness, motivation, combat effectiveness, and homosexuality. Providing definitions would have helped and using illustrations or describing behaviors would have been a superior approach. Also, there's no mention of relevant U.S. government research on homosexual practices such as a report indicating 71 percent of all American males living with HIV/AIDS infections are "men who have sex with men."
Service members are not asked to identify whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, which is a major shortfall. Obviously, servicemembers who are homosexual can be expected to offer positive comments on the consequences of repeal, thus skewing the overall results. It is the reaction of the heterosexual majority who have obeyed the current law that must be carefully considered. However, the survey used space to ask respondents to answer questions based on their perception that a colleague(s), subordinate(s) and or leader(s) is (are) homosexual but without asking for corroborating evidence. The respondent is then asked how--positively or negatively--the presumed homosexual(s) impacted unit performance, privacy, morale, family, and career plans. Congress should be very skeptical about any conclusions that rely upon perceived but not corroborated homosexual status.
It is noteworthy the survey designers found space to ask about the presumed homosexual impact but no space could be found to ask if the respondents believe lifting the homosexual ban will improve or harm readiness. Such a question could be used to dispute or confirm the 1993 law's conclusion that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. Besides, if a service member was perceived to be homosexual there must have been behavior to justify that perception which should have been grounds for separation. Why didn't the command discharge the perceived homosexual based on the demonstrated behaviors? This line of questioning was not pursued.
The questions are stated in such a manner that responses can easily be manipulated to paint a picture that open homosexuality -- which is not defined -- is a neutral factor or widely tolerated without negatively impacting unit performance. For example, the survey asks respondents to identify the "top three factors that enable you to fulfill your mission during combat?"
"Having only heterosexual members in the unit" is one of thirteen choices. But respondents unfamiliar with the potential damaging impact of open homosexuality on small units would unlikely select that factor from among a list that includes "individual unit members' technical capabilities," "unit morale," "clear task objectives," and "having officers who lead by example."
The poll suggests "sexual orientation" -- code for homosexuality -- is a neutral factor for the military and then sets-up a question by asking if the law is repealed how the "services will maintain their high standards of conduct." The question apparently seeks to measure the ease or difficulty for leaders to implement the policy "regardless of their sexual orientation." Banning homosexuals is not a choice.
There are privacy questions. Have you shared a room or bath with someone you suspect was homosexual? What would you do if assigned to share a room or bath with someone you believe to be homosexual? "Leave the service" is not a response on the survey; rather, the choices all favor accommodation such as "take no action" and "use the shower at a different time than the service member I thought to be gay or lesbian."
There are questions about soldier reactions to open homosexuality at social functions and homosexual couples assigned on-base family housing. But there is no mention of children which for most military families is a consideration when selecting a home and whether to attend unit functions that may include children.
The survey implies that same-sex "family" housing and homosexual "marriage" are part of the CRWG's study, by asking about a situation in which "a gay or lesbian Service member was living with a same-sex partner on-base." However, the poll fails to ask about the impact for the military community if homosexual couples are given the same access and benefits as heterosexual married couples. In fact, this hypothetical question is contrary to law, because the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) forbids federal recognition of same-sex "marriages," and repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654 would have no impact on DOMA.
The military service member survey was not designed to be a referendum on the repeal decision, according to Mr. Johnson. Rather it was designed to identify service member reactions to open homosexuals in various roles (co-worker, subordinate, and leader) and settings (social events, neighborhood) which will be used to guide the CRWG in formulating a plan to mitigate potential adverse effects. Excluding homosexuals is never an option in the survey.
It is not clear whether the Pentagon will publicly release detailed results from the surveys. Some advocates of repeal, such as Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have declared that the results should not be released. They may fear the political consequences for the repeal efforts if the survey shows, for example, that a significant percentage of respondents answer a question about how repeal would affect their military career plans by declaring, "I will leave sooner than I had planned."
The survey's raw data will provide a good indication of service member concerns, but on balance the survey fails to ask important questions and it demonstrates a pervasive bias against the current law, which makes the report suspect.
CRWG'S MILITARY SPOUSE SURVEY
On August 11, Westat mailed the "2010 DoD Active Component / Reserve Component Service Member Spouse Survey" to 150,000 spouses who had been randomly selected. The survey directions promise anonymity to respondents via a Certificate of Confidentiality from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which prohibits the release of respondent identities even by court order or subpoena.
The 11-page, 44 question survey collects information about military community life, retention and referrals, and the potential impact of a repeal of the 1993 law on family readiness. It has some of the same shortcomings as the military member survey.
The spouse survey fails to ask whether the military spouse endorses repeal of the homosexual exclusion law. The mostly married military services understand that the military spouse has a significant impact on service member retention which Congress needs to appreciate when weighing this decision and military spouse responses.
The survey fails to address whether repeal will impact the more than 2 million military dependent children. How will DOD schools, base child care centers, and base youth activities be impacted? Will open homosexuals work in these facilities? The survey provides no opportunity for spouses to voice concern about "gay pride" events or same-sex social activities on military installations to include in family housing areas.
The instrument creates a strawman situation, like the service member's survey, asking the spouse whether their military member has ever worked with a suspected homosexual and then asks about the presumed homosexual's social engagements. The purpose of this question isn't clear but likely is an attempt to indicate open homosexuals will not be disruptive.
The survey fails to address religious and moral objections to homosexuality, or the rights of service members and family members to express those objections. But it does ask questions about homosexual couples living in military family housing which implies the CRWG assumes homosexual couples will be treated like married heterosexual couples. This raises legal questions about marriage and civil unions. Military marriage translates into more allowances for service members such as for housing and family separation. Will the CRWG award homosexual relationships the same allowances as heterosexual married couples? As noted above, such a policy would appear to violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The survey asks about the factors that influence service member retention. It is interesting the choices are about job stability, pay, benefits, and deployment-related considerations but there is no choice for patriotism, love of country, and co-worker compatibility. This suggests service members and their spouses make retention decisions primarily based on tangible factors, which is not necessarily the case.
There are no questions about privacy on the spouses' survey. Most military spouses know whether privacy is an issue for their military member who might be forced to share intimate settings with open homosexuals especially during deployments.
The survey fails to define homosexual behavior and the health consequences associated with especially male homosexuals who account for a disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country. Are spouses concerned about the health impact open homosexuals will have on community life and support activities?
The survey seeks to measure the utility of family support programs for spouses of deployed military personnel. It asks whether homosexual partners participating in these programs would affect their participation. This line of questioning is important for the military to understand because it goes to the trust families and military members have for their services especially when the military member is deployed.
The survey provides space for spouses to express other concerns. A Marine's wife, who received the spouse survey in the mail, told this writer she expressed three concerns in the provided space: (1) treating homosexual couples like married heterosexual couples is wrong, (2) she would not take her children to unit activities where there might be open homosexuals, and (3) she was very concerned that her husband would have to share a room with an open homosexual during deployment. Congress should scrutinize concerns expressed by military spouses.
Also, Congress should consider the impact of yet another stressor -- repeal of the ban on open homosexuality -- might have for a force that is already marked by the highest rate of suicides ever, high divorce rates, and unusually high rates of psychological problems among military children. Imposing this radical social experiment on our at-war, overstretched force and their families is misguided and will inevitably undermine effectiveness and readiness.
The spouse survey will provide useful information but fails to capture other input like the service member survey. There is no mention of religion, morality, or children, and spouses are not asked about privacy issues as they impact their service members and their views regarding unit performance.
The CRWG did what its political masters directed -- chart a path for repeal and figure out how to mitigate the inevitable consequences of that decision. Congress, the audience for CRWG's report, must carefully study the report's recommendations with special emphasis on whether the all-volunteer force was objectively questioned about all the implications of repeal and the likely impact such a decision could have for effectiveness and readiness.
Congress should not act on any repeal legislation before the CRWG delivers its report in December. It should then hold hearings to consider the findings in the report, including the views of service members and their spouses. This paper identifies numerous concerns associated with the CRWG's instruments, especially the surveys, used to collect the all-volunteer force's views about open homosexuality and the proposal to repeal the law. Congress should conclude that the combination of missing questions and biased questioning makes the Pentagon's reliance on these collected views highly suspect and clearly biased.
Robert Maginnis serves as a Senior Fellow for National Security at Family Research Council (FRC). He also served with FRC from 1993 to 2002, rising from analyst to the Vice President for Policy. Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television, a columnist for Human Events, and a consultant with the U.S. Army. He testified before the Pentagon's 1993 Military Working Group that worked on the homosexual issue, provided considerable background material at the group's request, and served as a personal advisor to the group's senior member, Army Lt. Gen. John Otjen. In 2010, Mr. Maginnis participated in meetings and telephone conferences with the Pentagon's CRWG and provided the group materials produced by the 1993 Military Working Group.
 William J. Clinton, "Ending Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation in the Armed Forces," Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, Washington, DC, January 29, 1993.
 Robert M. Gates, "Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654" Memorandum for the General Counsel [and] Commander, US Army Europe (Washington, Dec: Office of the Secretary of Defense, March 2, 2010).
 Shanea J. Watkins and James Sherk, "Who Serves in the U.S. Military? Demographic characteristics of enlisted troops and officers," Center for Data Analysis, Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC, August 21, 2008, http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2008/pdf/cda08-05.pdf.
 Adam Levine, "1/4 of Don't Ask, Don't Tell surveys returned as deadline looms, CNN, August 13, 2010, http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-13/us/dont.ask.dont.tell.survey_1_surveys-service-members-spouses?_s=pm:us.
 Americablog Gay, http://gay.americablog.com/2010/07/i-just-took-dods-secret-dadt-survey-of.html, accessed October 13, 2010.
 Dave Cook, "Armed Services Committee's Levin talks 'don't ask, don't tell' poll," Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2010; online at: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/monitor_breakfast/2010/0713/Armed-Services-Committee-s-Levin-talks-don-t-ask-don-t-tell-poll
 The stress on the volunteer force is evident. More than 1,100 servicemen and women committed suicide in 2005 to 2009 -- one suicide every day and a half. The Army's suicide rate doubled in that time. [http://in.reuters.com/article/idINTRE68M5G720100923] A 2009 study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that deployment of parents was correlated to high stress levels in the parent who remains at home, which it said was linked to greater psychological impact on children. That report indicates children of service members are 2 ½ times more likely to develop psychological problems than American children in general. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32406781/] And the divorce rates among members of the armed forces have risen significantly since 2001, the beginning of the war on terror. The divorce rate was 2.6 percent in 2001 compared to 3.6 percent today. [http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/us/28brfs-DIVORCESRISI_BRF.html]