Defense Department officials e-mailed their long-awaited "don't ask, don't tell" survey to about 400,000 servicemembers Wednesday afternoon in an effort to better gauge how troops will react to an impending repeal of the ban on openly gay troops in the ranks. Half of the group is active-duty troops, while the rest were sent to guard and reserve e-mails.
Pentagon officials would not release details of the lengthy survey to reporters, saying they did not want to influence troops' reactions to the questions. Military Times released details of an earlier draft of the survey Wednesday night, noting that the questions focused heavily on how working alongside openly gay troops would affect teamwork, individual performance, mission completion and overall morale.
Since May, defense researchers have welcomed anonymous online comments about the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law, and next month they're expected to send a similar e-mail survey to military spouses and dependents to chart their opinions on the law.
Democratic leaders in Congress, the president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have already committed to repealing the law early next year. By the surveys, combined with other reports being assembled by a review panel in coming months, are designed to help military leaders see potential stumbling blocks associated with the change, and what other policies (housing, benefits, etc.) may need to be updated.
Military officials said information on the surveys will be collected anonymously, but gay rights groups have warned that the "don't ask, don't tell" law is still in effect and closeted troops should be cautious about how they respond to any such requests. In a statement, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said "there is no guarantee of privacy, and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself."
Earlier this year, Gates outlined stricter standards for how gay troops can be booted from the ranks, but any servicemember who publicly admits their homosexuality can still face dismissal.
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