View From Washington: Integration
BY Kerry Eleveld
July 19 2010 12:50 PM ET
But Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sees the same traps of such a survey.
“It would be really, really, really unacceptable for people in the military to believe it’s a democracy,” Levin said last week while briefing journalists about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although Levin said such a poll might have some utility in terms of guiding implementation, he added, “I have my doubts about the content of the survey."
Despite the new revelation from DOD today, I am beginning to worry that the U.S. is quickly on its way to becoming a lesson in how not to integrate the military. Unlike some repeal advocates and LGBT activists, I don’t believe Defense Department leadership is being intrinsically mischievous, yet there’s not a shade of doubt in my mind that the premise of such an extensive survey sent to 400,000 troops to gauge their feelings about repeal is inherently homophobic even if it wasn’t intended to be.
First, it’s not clear the Pentagon has encountered enough concerns that would warrant the type of wide-scale inquiry that Morrell said during the briefing was “costing us an extraordinary sum of money” — about $4.5 million to be exact. (In a subsequent interview, Morrell said the cost of administering the survey alone was closer $850,000, but the fact remains that the DOD’s contract with the polling company, Westat, is about $4.5 million in total.)
During the forums that have been conducted by the working group at about 30 installations across the country, anonymous sources have told me that the first question asked is always, “Do you think you’ve ever served with anyone you believe to be gay or lesbian?” The sources report that about 90% or more of the approximately 250 to 300 service members present consistently raise their hands. Then soldiers are asked to keep their hands raised if serving with someone they believed to be gay bothered them, and sources said the vast majority of the hands usually drop.
Given this information, one wonders why the working group felt so compelled to assemble the survey and why Secretary Gates strongly recommended that they increase the sampling size from 200,000 to 400,000.
When I sat down with a DOD official for a background briefing shortly after the survey was first released, he was at pains to soothe pro-repeal advocates’ fears that any little hiccup in the results of the survey could be seized upon by the opposition to derail the policy change.
“Neither [Secretary Gates] nor [Chairman Mullen] are looking for input as to how to slow down the process or kill it,” said the official, “they’re looking for information as to how to most effectively implement repeal so that it is done as smoothly as possible.”