SLDN warns troops about participating in Pentagon DADT study

The Pentagon has begun its survey of servicemembers on the issue of repealing DADT. Pam Spaulding posted a CNN piece where that network’s Pentagon reporter, Barbara Starr, reported on some of the questions:

The survey, which service members can expect to receive via e-mail, asks about such issues as how unit morale or readiness might be affected if a commander is believed to be gay or lesbian; the need to maintain personal standards of conduct; and how repeal might affect willingness to serve in the military.

The survey also asks a number of questions aimed at identifying problems that could occur when troops live and work in close quarters in overseas war zones. For example, the questionnaire asks military members how they would react if they had to share a room, bathrooms, and open-bay showers in a war zone with other service members believed to be gay or lesbian.

Yeah. I saw that Starr interview. This survey just sounds like no good can come from it.

There are almost potentially dangerous implications for gay, lesbian or bisexual servicemembers. This morning, SLDN is telling lesbian, gay or bisexual servicemembers Legal Defense Network that it cannot recommend that they participate in the Pentagon Survey. Here’s the press release from SLDN:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), released the following statement today after learning the Department of Defense is launching a survey to troops concerning DADT. Late last week, SLDN asked the Department of Defense and the Pentagon Working Group for the text of the surveys, more information on possible certificates of confidentiality, and whether DOD or PWG could guarantee immunity from DADT and other armed services rules and regulations for service members who are inadvertently “outed” by the surveys. The Department of Defense was unable to satisfy our request.

Statement from Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“A number of service members have contacted SLDN to seek guidance on surveys concerning the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the discriminatory law barring gay and lesbian service members from serving with integrity. At this time SLDN cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members participate in any survey being administered by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon Working Group, or any third-party contractors. While the surveys are apparently designed to protect the individual’s privacy, 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. If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation.”

DADT is still the law of the land. Servicemembers are still being discharged under that law. The process for ending DADT is very complicated and still faces many hurdles. This study could be a serious problem for some of the servicembers impacted by the law.

Pam asks the right questions:

Do you think this deck is now stacked against us?

There are lots of questions that this development raises…

* Why was the “Department of Defense was unable to satisfy” SLDN’s quite appropriate request to present basic information about a survey that will profoundly affect the fate of LBG service members?

* It’s telling that the DOD or PWG could not specifically satisfy any kind of guarantee of privacy to SLDN. And that’s not only related to the questions in the survey, mind you, but the actual ability of the Pentagon to prevent leaks. We’ve already seen that, so Bzzt.

And what will be the ramifications of this response by SLDN – how will the DOD respond? What about the White House have to say?

SLDN is clearly indicating that the survey process is flawed,implemented in a way that jeopardizes the privacy of an unknown number of the selected participants — that the DOD and PWG decided to move forward with the surveys anyway.

Good questions. Don’t expect answers.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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