As it prepares for the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military is doing something unprecedented: asking the troops what they think.
“With my affiliation with SLDN, the advice is not to participate,” said Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“Even though the survey goes to a secure public site,” Guy-Gainer said, “you’re still vulnerable if you complete the survey on a government computer.”
When the military first announced it needed six months to study the end of DADT, Guy-Gainer was against the delay. But when he heard they were studying things like benefits and housing for partners, he changed his mind. The survey, however, has raised new issues about the intent of the delay.
Questions on the survey include: “Do you currently serve with a male or female service member you believe to be homosexual?” and “Have you been assigned to share bath facilities with an open bay shower that is also used by a service member you believed to be homosexual?”
“It implies that you’re allowing people to vote,” Guy-Gainer said.
He gave several examples of the military implementing changes without surveying the opinion of troops.
“A few months ago, the Navy put women on submarines, and no one asked about the women,” he said.
Members of the Armed Forces weren’t polled when President Harry S. Truman integrated the troops, when President Gerald Ford made military institutes co-ed or when President Jimmy Carter placed women on battleships.
And questions on the survey appear to be homophobic.
Guy-Gainer has said troops aren’t in Gomer Pyle-style barracks, sleeping in bunk beds and using group showers. Yet, those are the level of questions apparently being asked in the survey.
Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that the troops have never been surveyed like this before and that the military is not a democracy. But Levin added that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with gauging the attitude of the troops. He said the final decision rests with Congress, and the military will be expected to follow it.
Guy-Gainer said the survey is optional, not mandatory. He said he’s afraid those who are homophobic have more incentive to respond while those who are sympathetic to gays and lesbians in the military are afraid of how their answers will be used.
He called the survey unnecessary.
“The working group can identify all the rules and regulations that need to be changed,” he said. “What happens to good order and discipline?”
This week a trial opened in California with Log Cabin Republicans challenging the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Attorneys for Log Cabin used President Barack Obama’s words in their opening statements, according to the Associated Press. Log Cabin argued that maintaining the policy doesn’t advance the government’s interest.
UPDATE: In related news, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that prosecutors have dropped all charges against Lt. Dan Choi, the gay veteran who has twice chained himself to the White House fence this year to protest DADT.