View From Washington: Integration

BY Kerry Eleveld

July 19 2010 1:50 PM ET

When asked what would happen if, for instance, 90% of respondents said
they had concerns about showering with gays and lesbians, the official
said, “The issue of whether or not you want to shower with a gay or
lesbian member is not going to be what frames this report.”


The official said the working group was on course to deliver their report by
early December and that they were also contemplating questions about
how the military could be more fair to gay soldiers — like whether one's partner might be notified if one was killed in the line of duty
or if partners might be given access to survivor benefits and other
resources.


Certainly, the Pentagon contains competing influences when it comes to
repeal. Those who want to implement a policy change on their watch
hope they will be able to get buy-in from people like the service chiefs
if the survey yields results demonstrating open service will have
little effect if any on military recruitment, retention, and readiness.


But as Nathaniel Frank noted last week, “Leadership is essential to a
policy change like this, and a leadership vacuum can make the change
harder than it has to be.”





Even Gen. James Conway, head of the Marines and one of the biggest
detractors of repeal, saw the value in being decisive and
straightforward. “Keep it simple,” he noted during a DADT committee
hearing in February. “I would encourage you to either change the law or not, but in
the process, half measures would only be confusing in the end.”


Unfortunately, time and again, pro-repeal forces inside the Pentagon seem to be making wishy-washy moves. The omission of one
simple question from the survey is most telling. As Chris Geidner of Metro
Weekly
wondered during the call, why wasn’t a single query included about how soldiers
had been affected when one of their fellow troop members was discharged
from their unit under DADT? In other words, if you’re going to ask the shower
question and others like it, why not seek information about the
potential harm discharges have wreaked on unit cohesion?

During my background briefing at the Pentagon, I got the sense that Defense officials were aware of these concerns but emphatically did not share them. Unfortunately, it's increasingly difficult to see how the those who favor repeal at the Pentagon will win the war when they continue to lose the battles.

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