Transcript: DOD Defends DADT Survey

BY Kerry Eleveld

July 12 2010 7:50 PM ET

Do you reject out of hand that the survey is biased?
Absolutely — unequivocally, I reject it as nonsense. This is the work of an incredibly professional survey organization. We would not be disseminating it to our forces in the numbers that we are unless we believed it to be the best vehicle possible to get a scientific sample of the attitudes of the force.

It’s costing us an extraordinary sum of money. It’s taking an extraordinary amount of time and manpower, and it deals with an extraordinarily important issue to this department, to this secretary, and to the president of the United States. We’re not playing games here, guys. We’re trying to figure out what the attitudes or our force are, what the potential problems are with repeal, what the potential opportunities there may be available to us a result of repeal.

What if 49% of the respondents say they have a problem with taking showers with an openly gay or lesbian service member — how will you assess this information? Just getting the number of people who have concerns doesn’t seem like it will lead you in any particular direction.
I’m not a statistician, but there are 103 questions here, and pollsters, based upon the answers, will be able to derive more from the answers than just that there is X number who have issues with the showers [inaudible].

Based upon all the questions that preceded it, demographics, experience and so forth, we’ll be able to get a sense of who it is that’s concerned about this. Are they younger members, less experienced members, is it the older force, are they married? All this will help our collective wisdom about the situation, and then we’ll make judgments — the working group will — and this is where the hard part comes in, about armed with all this information, what will we do when repeal takes place to prepare the force for that? Does it require more education? Does it require more training? Does it require — as I mentioned before — adjustments to facilities?

Who came up with the questions?
This was a collaborative process. We hired a professional firm for a reason. We obviously contributed to this — we had known for months what we were trying to get at. They were very familiar with the working group and what their responsibility is and in a collaborative process, questions were devised.

Were any of the gay rights groups consulted when you put these questions together?

They were not consulted in terms of devising the questions. Obviously, the working group has had interaction with some of the interest groups along the way. We’ve tried to be as transparent and forthright as possible. But they did not sit down with them and devise the questions.

You say the survey is not biased, but the way some the questions are contrived assume that gays and lesbians are not already serving. For instance, if you ask, would you be comfortable showering with someone who is gay or lesbian, there’s already gays and lesbians serving — they’re not open, but they’re there. So people are showering with them. You also use the term homosexual, which is well known among pollsters to have very negative connotations. Who tested this for not being biased — the language as well as the way the questions were conceived?

I don’t think we’ve approached this survey with some sort of naiveté about the prevalence of gays or lesbians in the force. Obviously, this survey is built under the assumption that our force is indeed serving with gay and lesbian service members, and that’s why we ask them about some of their attitudes toward serving with those members. That’s why some of the questions ask them outright if they believe they have served with gay service members — we want to get a sense of how many believe they are serving and how that influences their attitudes and so forth.

The questions about terminology here — it is noted in this survey up front that the term homosexual as well as gay and lesbian is used interchangeably in this survey. I would point out, however, that vast preponderance of the references in this survey to sexuality uses the term gay and lesbian. I think only seven of the references use the term homosexual, and when they do use the term homosexual, it is to elicit a yes or a no answer. It is never to elicit a subjective answer. We are well aware that to some the word homosexual is a loaded term, but it is a term that is in law, in regulation, in policy that has covered this issue for the last 17 years. It is the term that at least some portion of our force is most familiar [with], so we thought it only responsible to use both terms in this survey.

Why isn’t there a question that relates to the impact that DADT discharges have had on current unit morale or cohesion?
I frankly don’t know. I’m sure there’s a good explanation for it, I don’t know. I’m not armed with that information.

What’s the cost of the survey? And how much more did it cost to double the size of the sample?

It cost about $4.5 million. (Editor's note: it's unclear whether this particular cost estimate came from Morrell or the anonymous
DOD official who spoke occasionally throughout the briefing, but this was an
on-the-record comment.)





















I don’t know how much more it would cost, I doubt it would double the cost. But I frankly don’t think the cost in that respect was an issue for the secretary.

In this case, he has said time and time again, it is better to do this smart than stupid — he is determined to do this smartly.

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