The Debate Over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


VT has received notification from Iraq War Veteran Ashwin Madia the Interim Chairman, asking us to help rally support for repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.

I’ve decided that instead of taking a one sided view on this issue that it would be fair to compare the reasons given by supporters for repeal to the reasons given by opponents for not repealing DADT.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, GS-14, U.S. Civl Service-Retired, Veterans Issues Editor, VT News Network

Reasons to Support or Oppose the Repeal of Our Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DNDT) policies

SOURCE: [US NEWS] Is It Time to Repeal the Ban on Gays in the Military?We will begin with what concerns opponents of repealing DADT and follow with reasons given by proponents of repeal. The opposition views comes from Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, a nonprofit conservative to right of center THINK TANK specializing in military personnel issues.The proponent views come from Iraq War Veteran Ashwin Madia the Interim Chairman,

NO says Elaine Donnelly, President of the conservative leaning THINK TANKCenter for Military Readiness,

Elaine Donnelly

She notes that, “recent mandates for “equal opportunity” as the highest priority, and the ongoing drive to repeal the 1993 Eligibility Law regarding homosexuals in the military, threaten to undermine morale, recruiting, retention, and overall readiness.

Should DADT be repealed, strong leadership and sound priorities will have to be applied in all matters, including personnel policies that impose heavy costs in return for little or no benefit.

These include:

  • counter-productive gender quotas,
  • double standards in training and disciplinary matters,
  • misinterpretation of the law banning homosexual conduct in the military,
  • overly generous pregnancy policies that worsen deployability problems,
  • and universal “sensitivity training” to convince everyone that social engineering “works.”

Pentagon officials must address social issues of concern to CMR.

A strong volunteer force depends on well-trained, cohesive units that are ready for deployment worldwide on short notice. With fewer troops… available, each person in uniform is more important to the mission, not less so.

Liberal Critics Advance the Agendas of Civilian Feminists and Homosexual Activists

The military is a resilient institution, and its people are responding with courage to the ongoing challenges of War in the Middle East.  For their sake, sound priorities in the field of social policy should be restored.  Relentless pressure from liberal critics will continue to advance the agendas of civilian feminists and homosexual activists.

Obama should reconsider campaign promises.

On the issue of gays in the military, President Obama should reconsider his campaign promises. Now that he is commander in chief, [the President] needs to build a bond of trust…with the troops he leads. In that capacity, the president should disregard the demands of gay activists who want him to suspend enforcement of the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. That law often confused with [President] Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” administrative policy, clearly states that gays are not eligible to serve in uniform. The law enjoys widespread support, especially in the military, and federal courts have upheld it as constitutional several times.

In May (2010), the Michael D. Palm Center, a University of California-Santa Barbara think tank, issued a report recommending that [the President] sign an executive order suspending enforcement of the 1993 statute. The Palm Center polemic cites the rarely used authority underlying presidential “stop-loss” orders sometimes issued to keep troops in the field beyond their tours during a military or national emergency. The contrived premise is legally absurd, but if [the President] buys it and unilaterally stops enforcement of the law, keeping gays in the military, the troops would perceive that action as an evasion of his oath to “faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States.”

Presidents do not get to pick and choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore. A politically expedient presidential executive order effectively nullifying the 1993 law would disrespect Congress and constitute a serious, perhaps irreparable breach of faith with men and women who volunteer to serve. That would be only the beginning of major problems if [President] Obama signs legislation to impose the gay agenda on the military. The open-ended bill reintroduced in this Congress (H.R. 1283) would forbid discrimination based on “homosexuality or bisexuality, whether the orientation is real or perceived.”

Close Quarters and Living Conditions

The new “nondiscrimination” law would affect all military branches and communities, including Army and Marine infantry, special operations, Navy SEALs, and submarines. Unlike workers who return home at night, military personnel must accept living conditions that involve “forced intimacy,” with little or no privacy. This would be tantamount to forcing female soldiers to share private quarters with men—a situation that would be unacceptable to the majority of military women even if misconduct never occurred. Stated in gender-neutral terms, the new law would require military persons to accept exposure to persons who may be sexually attracted to them.

Mandatory diversity training programs—designed by experts whose credentials in gender studies and gay culture say nothing about common sense—would attempt to overcome the normal, human desire for modesty and privacy in sexual matters. This quest would be inappropriate for the military and unlikely to succeed.

Zero Tolerance of Dissent.

A corollary policy would enforce “zero tolerance” of dissent. This means that service members who want to report inappropriate actions could face questions about their own attitudes toward “sexual minorities.” Many will not file complaints, even in cases of assault or abuse of rank, because of fear of career repercussions. Commanders who take sides in emotionally charged disputes also could be accused of a “failure of leadership” or “intolerance” that violates the zero tolerance policy.

The Palm Center effectively confirmed these consequences in its May report, “How to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ “ A section of the 29-page document, billed as a road map for gay equality, recommends that “the Defense Department should work to identify the most potent ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ for implementing the new policy.”

Undermine Recruiting, Retention, and Readiness in the All-Volunteer Force.

Career “carrots” would reward commanders who embrace the new law while downplaying problems. “Sticks,” or “strong sanctions for noncompliance,” would deny promotions and end the careers of anyone who disagree, including chaplains who [may] leave as a matter of conscience. These involuntary losses of good people would compound the harmful effects of shortages caused when others decline re-enlistment or avoid service in the first place.

58% Against Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)

In the 2008 Military Times Poll, 58 percent of 2,000 active-duty subscribers said they opposed repeal of current policy—for the fourth year in a row. Responses to a new survey question found that if Congress repealed the 1993 law, almost 10 percent would not re-enlist, and an additional 14 percent would consider ending their careers. Many first-termers normally leave, but the loss of even a few thousand careerists in communities, grades, and skills that are not quickly or easily replaceable would come at a crippling cost—especially when we are at war and trying to grow the Army and Marine Corps.

Honorable discharges of gays who were misled about eligibility to serve are far fewer than losses due to pregnancy or weight standard violations. Clarify the meaning of the law, and such discharges could drop to near zero. There is no national security argument for legislation that would undermine recruiting, retention, and readiness in the all-volunteer force.

A distinguished group of retired flag and general officers recently delivered to Obama and Congress a statement supporting the 1993 law, signed by more than 1,000 retired officers, including 51 of four-star rank. Noting that it “protect[s] good order, discipline, and morale in the unique environment of the military,” the officers wrote, “As a matter of national security, we urge you to support the 1993 law regarding homosexuals in the military , and to oppose any legislative, judicial, or administrative effort to repeal or invalidate the law.”

This is good advice—Obama and Congress should take it.

71% Would Stay in the Military Despite Repeal of DADT


[VT Editorial Comment: However, Elaine Donnelly fails to mention that the 2008 Military Times Poll found that 6 % had no opinion and 71% would continue to serve despite DADT being repealed. The Palm Center notes that there are flaws in the 2008 Military Times Poll cited Finding That Troops Won’t Serve Methodologically Suspect.]


Counter Argument

Iraq Veteran Ashwin Madia of

This is an issue I’ve personally dealt with.  In the Marines, one of my proudest moments was being one of the first to successfully defend a gay Marine from being discharged from the service.  I’ve seen – first-hand – how keeping this policy in place hurts the military.

Here are the facts:

  • A military review of troops reinforces the findings of our own poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Specifically, three-quarters of those in the military are fine with gays serving openly.  It simply isn’t an issue to those serving. [See SOURCES below]
  • Repeal will happen in a way that the military itself implements, and on its own timeline. Congress only will authorize a repeal, not dictate its implementation.  That’s why Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has urged Congress to pass it.
  • We have discharged thousands of able troops under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, with a particular focus on the kind of troops we need most right now – those who serve as translators.  Translators don’t just help our men and women in the field communicate with the population, translators also serve as intelligence officers, helping to thwart potential terrorist attacks.  Under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, hundreds of them have been kicked out of the military.
  • Investigating claims that someone is gay takes up precious resources. It means officers have to spend their time conducting an investigation, instead of spending their time trying to defend America.  It means millions of dollars, overall, are spent to conduct investigations, instead of that money going towards badly needed equipment.

Strip All the Political Rhetoric Away

Uncle Sams says Gays need not enlist

When you strip all the rhetoric away on this issue, it comes down to this:  We need to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to make our military stronger.  And, those who oppose a repeal are doing so for purely political reasons – not because of any legitimate care for the military. 

But, unless you speak up now, and put your name on the line, politics will beat out sound policy.  You cannot let that happen.

SOURCES for Counter Argument:

[Fox News] Pentagon Study: Low Risk to Ending ‘Don’t Ask’  However, FOX also pointed out that there was a strong minority within especially the Army and Marines that would continue to oppose any change to DADT.

  • [NOLA] Gays serving openly in military pose little risk to war effort, Pentagon study group concludes
  • [UPI] Military survey: Most OK serving with gays
  • [STAR TRIBUNE] Pentagon study on gays serving openly in military finds minimal risk to war effort


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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.