Only about 10 percent of the 400,000 "don't ask, don't tell" surveys sent out three weeks ago have been returned, and Pentagon officials are lobbying troops to fill out the rest before the Aug. 15 deadline set for the research.
The survey, featuring more than 100 questions on perceptions of troops’ morale and behavior before and after a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, is designed to give a Defense Department working group a better sense of servicemembers’ concerns about allowing openly gay troops in the ranks. Originally, researchers had planned on contacting only 200,000 troops with the survey, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates doubled that number to get a broader range of reactions.
But gay rights groups have questioned the value of the survey, and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network warned closeted gay troops against participating in the exercise. Even though the survey will be conducted by e-mail through an outside contractor, SLDN officials said that promise of anonymity didn’t offer enough security for troops who still could be kicked out under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.
Defense officials could not say whether that negative reaction has hurt response rates, but are urging everyone who received the survey to fill it out. A similar survey will be sent out to 150,000 military family members next month.
In May, both the House and a Senate panel voted for a delayed repeal of the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" law, allowing gay troops to serve openly after the president and Pentagon leaders certify a yearlong study into the effects on the force. The full Senate still has not passed the measure, but is expected to take up debate on the issue in September.
UPDATE, 7/29: I spoke to a soldier serving in Iraq earlier today who has frustrated he wasn't picked to participate in the survey. Anyone who wishes to make their voices heard can log onto the DOD's "don't ask, don't tell" inbox at www.defense.gov/dadt and leave their views on the issue. However, you need a CAC reader to login there, which raises more questions about how anonymous those comments can be.
You're also free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.