WASHINGTON (AFNS) –
Noting the importance of getting the opinions of those who would be most affected by a possible repeal of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, urged servicemembers to provide their input July 8.
About 400,000 servicemembers are receiving an e-mail survey seeking their opinions, and the department has an online inbox at https://dadt.csd.disa.mil/ for additional feedback from common access card holders.
"I think it is very important for us to understand from our men and women in uniform the challenges that they see," Secretary Gates said, noting that the department needs their views on the subject and the challenges they see to implementing a possible change to the law.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the department needs objective information that the survey can deliver, and emphasized that no one is drawing conclusions about the survey until it is finished.
"To reach out at this point and try to predict either what they might say or what the results might say, I just think it's too early with respect to that," the chairman said.
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer, are leading a review panel that's assessing the current law.
"I would say that this survey is a very important element of this effort, in part because while General Ham and General Counsel Jeh Johnson have talked to thousands of troops in dozens of military facilities, we have gotten several tens of thousands of comments and views by e-mail in response to the request for people's thoughts on this," Secretary Gates said. "This size sampling is obviously the most significant element of getting the views of the troops."
The survey, released July 8, will go to 200,000 active-duty servicemembers and 200,000 Reserve-component members. Officials estimate it will take 30 minutes to complete the survey, and the deadline for returning them is Aug. 15. Another survey will go to 150,000 family members in August.
Secretary Gates insisted on doubling the sample size to its current level.
"The original proposal was to sample 100,000 active-duty and 100,000 in the Reserve component," he said. "I strongly suggested that they double the size of the sample, that I wanted a significant percentage of the force to have an opportunity to offer their views on this."
The survey is confidential, the secretary pointed out.
"I strongly encourage gays and lesbians who are in the military to fill out these forms," Secretary Gates said. "We've organized this in a way to protect their privacy and the confidentiality of their responses through a third party, and it's important that we hear from them as well as everybody else. But I think we're satisfied that this is an important element of this effort, and that it's being done in a very professional way."