An overlooked Pentagon report issued last year by the Joint Chiefs of Staff has debunked decades-old claims that integrating out LGBTQ soldiers into the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces would harm military readiness and unit cohesion.
The 2021 report, issued 10 years after the repeal of the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy prohibiting lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from acknowledging their sexual orientation, examined the military’s response to out LGB service members during the period following repeal. Crucially, the Pentagon report concluded that assertions that repealing the policy would be too “disruptive” to day-to-day operations were largely unfounded.
While the stated purpose of DADT was to make the military more inclusive by allowing LGBTQ individuals to enter active service so long as they told no one of their sexuality, activists have noted that the policy actually made the military more oppressive of LGBTQ people. When DADT was originally repealed, high level military officials, such as General Jim Amos, the former Assistant Commandant of the Air Force, were concerned it may undercut the military’s effectiveness.
“The Commandant said he had no regrets about opposing the change during wartime, explaining that he had felt obliged to set aside his personal opinions and represent the majority view held by combat Marines who worried that repeal might diminish their units’ cohesion and battlefield effectiveness,” the Pentagon report says of Amos, according to the Military Times. “In retrospect, although convinced that he had done what he needed to do at the time, Amos acknowledged that his concern was ‘misplaced.’”
In general, the report concluded that the repeal of DADT and the integration of openly LGBTQ individuals had no effect on the military’s operational efficiency.
Though the process to develop such a report began in 2012 and was completed in 2021, it was not widely circulated. In fact, a document similar to this report existed back in 2016, but was classified at that time.
Even following the 2021 release of the report, its finding went largely unreported. But the report’s conclusions were recently highlighted by the Palm Center, a think tank focused on studying and advocating for allowing LGBTQ service members to serve openly. The Palm Center, which officially closed down operations on Sept. 30 — having achieved nearly full LGBTQ inclusion in the military ranks — pointed to the Pentagon report as proof that its years of advocacy and research into issues surrounding DADT repeal and open service had been vindicated.
In a press release, the founder of the Palm Center, Dr. Aaron Belkin, said the think tank had been able to show “that discrimination undermines our country and that equality makes it better.” And Admiral Mike Mullen, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs if Staff when DADT was repealed, praised the Palm Center for having “reframed the national conversation over LGBT military service, using facts and research to conclusively demonstrate that inclusion makes our armed forces, and our country, stronger.”
The 2021 report included a detailed history of the military’s policies regarding LGBTQ service members. While service chiefs had differing opinions on whether allowing out gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops would effect readiness, ultimately everyone fell in line when it became clear the Obama administration intended to repeal the policy, according to the report.
Citing an internal Pentagon study, the report notes that the study’s co-chairs informed “[Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates that individuals who had served with homosexuals in the past tended to be less pessimistic about serving with gay and lesbian personnel in the future than those who had not, and that respondents deployed to combat zones had predicted that the impact of repeal would actually be less during intense situations than during downtime at sea or in the field.” The report also says the co-chairs claimed that their own internal study found that “‘the military community has become more accustomed to the idea of repeal.’”
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