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Posted on Nov 23, 2010 Print this Article

Pentagon Using "Spin" to Push Gays in Military Goal

Pentagon officials are stepping up a misleading perception management (PM) campaign, trying to rush Congress into passing legislation that would impose a new LGBT Law or policy on our military. Such a law would require full acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in all branches and communities of the military, with "zero tolerance" of dissent.

Activists who want the military to operate under LGBT Law are basing their hopes on perceptions about the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) report, due for early release on November 30. The report is being carefully "spun" as a military endorsement of gays in the military even though, as this editorial reveals, the Department of Defense has allowed an erroneous story based on anonymous sources to be published without correction, calling into question the integrity of the entire CRWG process.

-Washington Times: Barack's Brokeback Barracks

Even before this incident, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) raised important questions about the workings and assumptions of the DoD Working Group with this September 28 letter.

-Letter from Sen. John McCain to CRWG

On October 25, Secretary Gates wrote what amounts to a "non-response" to Sen. McCain—most of it reads like a form-letter.

-Gates October 25 Letter to Sen. McCain re: CRWG

Secretary Gates cannot have it both ways-making statements that the intent was to "engage" the troops, while failing to mention that troops who support the current law were not given an equal opportunity to have their views respected and reported. It was not enough to ask for "solutions" to irresolvable problems, but that is what the CRWG surveys and focus groups have done.

Secretary Gates' disingenuous claims about the CRWG survey process, not its substance, are contradicted by the survey instruments themselves and by recent history with which I am personally familiar.

The most obvious flaw in the CRWG survey instruments is the conspicuous absence of the basic question of interest to Senator McCain and most members of Congress: should the 1993 law be retained or repealed? Such a question would not be inappropriate or unprecedented. In 1992, I served on the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, which commissioned professional survey of the troops that was designed by the Roper Company in consultation with the presidential commission and with the full cooperation of the Department of Defense.

Unlike the CRWG survey, which reflected the mistaken expectation that Congress would repeal the law, the 1992 Roper survey was not skewed by gratuitous statements suggesting that all laws and regulations regarding women in or near combat were "likely" to be repealed. All personnel were free to express their opinions without restriction, even though the law regarding combat aviation had already been repealed by Congress in 1991, in the aftermath of the Tailhook scandal.

During presidential commission focus groups at military bases nationwide, all personnel were encouraged to speak their opinions, on any side of the many issues the commissioners were reviewing. Just prior to our visit to the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, the ship's commander prepared a special video encouraging all crewmembers to speak freely with commissioners, after thinking about the issue and preparing to express their rationale.

According to active-duty personnel who contacted CMR, instead of issuing guidance that encouraged all views to be heard and respected on an equal basis, CRWG focus group instructions discouraged, precluded, or did not record the opinions of personnel who support current law.

As I told CRWG leaders last spring, the Roper survey instrument was not designed in consultation with commissioners holding only one point of view. In accordance with our subcommittee structure, I was assigned to work on the project together with another commissioner whose views were quite different from mine. Together we worked hard to produce an instrument that was professional, fair, and acceptable to both of us and to the entire commission.

The Roper survey was not a "referendum," but it did not hesitate to ask candid questions and to compile the results according to relevant criteria, such as military and combat experience, military community, etc. The survey covered related issues throughout, such as training standards, sexual misconduct, family/child care concerns, etc. Results were very useful to the commission, but unlike the CRWG survey, it was not billed as the "definitive" voice of the military on the range of controversial issues before the commission.

CRWG leaders could have benefited from the Roper survey model, but they chose another course of action with the Westat company. Secretary Gates claims that numbers of surveys sent out and focus groups conducted make the survey "comprehensive." On the contrary, these are process matters-they do not satisfy concerns about the substance of the survey, including the omission of a long list of subjects that the Military Culture Coalition brought to the attention of the CRWG early in the process and again in September.

With so many "thorny issues" apparently left out, it is no surprise that gay activist groups are already hailing the CRWG survey as useful for their cause. The DoD's tolerance of unsupported, inaccurate leaks about the survey may already have distorted public perceptions. Congress will not be so easily fooled.

--- Elaine Donnelly

Posted on Nov 23, 2010 Print this Article