By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
If officials decide to overturn the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy banning homosexuals from serving openly in the military, an estimated 264,600 men and women who are currently serving say they will leave sooner than they had planned.
The Christian Post is reporting that these alarming numbers are included in the controversial Pentagon report which supposedly found that the majority of servicemen and women believe overturning the policy will have little or no effect on the military. However, even if those numbers are correct, which many doubt because of faulty survey methods, that still leaves 12.6 percent of those surveyed saying they would leave the military sooner than planned and another 11.1 who said they would consider leaving.
“If 12.6 percent of the military left earlier, that translates into 264,600 men and women who would leave the military earlier than they had planned,” said Arizona Senator McCain to Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a hearing last week. “Do you think that’s a good idea to replace 265,000 troops across the force in a time of war, that we should be undertaking that challenge at this time?”
“The experience of the British, the Canadians and some of the other [countries] has been that in their surveys … there were substantial numbers who said they would leave if homosexuals were to serve openly, but far fewer ended up doing so,” Secretary Gates countered. “If I believed that a quarter of a million would leave the military immediately if given the opportunity, I would certainly have second thoughts about this, but I don’t believe that.”
McCain went on to say that the much disputed report actually opposes repeal rather than approves of it.
“Of those surveyed, 30 percent of the total, 43 percent of the Marines, 48 percent of Army combat units and 58 percent of Marine combat units believe that a repeal of the law would have a negative or very negative impact on their units’ ability to work together to get the job done,” McCain said. “Furthermore, 67 percent of Marines and nearly 58 percent of Army soldiers in combat units believe that repeal of the law would have negative consequences on unit cohesion in a field environment or out at sea.”
McCain added, “I remain concerned … as demonstrated in this study that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed and what impact that would have on the ability of these units to perform their mission.”
Gates said the report raises concerns, although he said he believes such problems can be overcome.
“I … frankly share the view of the chiefs that the report’s evaluation of risk – and particularly in the combat arms – is perhaps too sanguine,” Gates said. “What I believe is that with proper time for preparation, for training … I believe that those concerns can be mitigated.”
McCain responded, “I couldn’t disagree more. We send these young people into combat. We think they’re mature enough to fight and die. I think they’re mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.”
Religious leaders are particularly concerned about whether or not the policy is overturned. They fear that a repeal of the ban will result in marginalizing those whose religious beliefs do not permit homosexuality, such as prohibiting chaplains from preaching Christian beliefs and leaving them vulnerable to discrimination complaints if they teach the faith.
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