Military experts, scholars ask Congress to take stand on 'don’t ask, don’t tell'
ARLINGTON, Va. — Several military experts and scholars are urging lawmakers to make up their own minds on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rather than deferring to the service chiefs.
“It needs to be clear that the military doesn’t decide this question, that this is a decision for the civilian leadership, both congressional and presidential,” said. Martin Cook, a professor at the United States Naval War College.
Cook is one of 28 experts, including a retired brigadier general and a retired rear admiral, who signed a statement from the University of California’s Palm Center, a research institute that opposes the military’s policy against allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered official instructions to U.S. Army Europe Commander Gen. Carter Ham and Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department’s top lawyer, on leading a yearlong study into how to repeal the policy.
According to the instructions, the review is to be delivered to Gates by Dec. 1 and will determine any potential impact on “military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, recruiting/retention, and family readiness.” Ham and Johnson are also asked to determine any new policies or changes to existing policies that might be necessary.
They are urged to engage members of Congress and other “key influencers” who have expressed opinions on the issue.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz have both told Congress that they are concerned repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” could affect readiness, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway told lawmakers that the policy seems to be working and urged lawmakers not to change it.
The Palm Center statement said it was appropriate for the service chiefs to give their opinions, but it cautions that, “Political leaders seem poised to accept advice provided by the Service Chiefs uncritically, advice which does not seem to take into account considerable research that has emerged over the past fifty years about the impact of openly gay service on military effectiveness.”
Much of that research was conducted by the military’s own experts, the statement said.
Lawmakers need to press military leaders about what the basis is for their opinions on repealing don’t ask don’t tell, Cook said.
“The opinion of the military people should not be the definitive opinion, unless they can show that it is grounded in empirical information, which so far they have not done,” he said.
It hurts civilian control of the military when civilian leaders accept military advice not based in evidence so wholeheartedly, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center.
“The military is trying to pass off bad data as if it were true and it is trying to pass off advice as if that advice were based on data,” Belkin said.