Final DADT survey response rate under 30 percent

Sunday was the deadline for troops to complete the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" attitudes survey, and officials at the Pentagon said the final tally on completed responses was 109,883 -- a response rate of only about 27.5 percent.

That's below the 30 to 40 percent response rate researchers from the University of Texas at Austin say an average email or online surveys should pull in, and well below the 52 percent participation rate officials at the Office of Personnel Management got in their similarly-structured 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The Pentagon's survey was designed to help military leaders "assess the impacts, if any, repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell" might have on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention," according to Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.

But from the start gay rights groups objected to the methodology and execution of the survey, and encouraged their supporters not to take part, which may have played a role in driving down the response rate.

Results from the survey -- including data on how many troops might feel uncomfortable working alongside an openly-gay colleague and how many may refuse to re-enlist if the law is repealed -- won't be released publicly until December, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to unveil plans to help ease the transition to a post-repeal force.

Meanwhile, later this month the Pentagon plans on mailing out another 150,000 surveys to military spouses (70,000 active duty spouses, 80,000 reservist spouses) asking their feelings on a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal. That survey will be due back in late September.

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