Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center and author of Unfriendly Fire, has released a statement correcting assertions by John McCain and John Boehner that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should remain in place following Obama's announcement that he'll work this year to repeal the discriminatory policy.
It is important to pause any time someone says that discrimination is “working well” as policy. Senator McCain and Representative Boehner think discrimination is working well in the military. And if discrimination is their goal, they have a point. But this hardly means “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a success.
My twelve years of research on this policy show it’s a colossal failure that’s had the opposite of its intended effect. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was supposed to make sexual orientation a non-issue so gays could serve discreetly while protecting privacy and cohesion, and sparing our military the unaffordable loss of essential talent. Instead, it has:
1.) Wasted thousands of essential personnel, including Arabic speakers, and filled those slots with ex-convicts and drug abusers;
2.) Struck at the heart of unit cohesion by breaking apart cohesive fighting teams, and undermining trust, integrity, and honesty among soldiers;
3.) Hamstrung tens of thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers from doing their jobs by limiting their access to support services that are essential to morale and readiness;
4.) Invaded the privacy of all service members by casting a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty over the intimate lives of everyone in the armed forces; and
5.) Cost the American taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars.
In this climate, it’s no wonder that rumor and innuendo have led to witch hunts that have meant yanking gay soldiers from their units, even when they have followed the law and policy. The military itself knows the policy doesn’t work, as evidenced by the declining discharge figures now that America is at war—clearly commanders on the ground are ignoring a policy which is not serving them well. The idea that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a success reflects a profound detachment from the reality on the ground. By every possible measure, it’s been a costly failure.
Said Boehner the morning before the SOTU speech: "When it comes to 'don't ask don't tell,' frankly, I think it's worked
very well. And we just ought to leave it alone."
Here's what McCain said, in a statement immediately following the speech: “In his State of the Union address,
President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who
wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I
believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy. This successful
policy has been in effect
for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly
supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best
equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and
the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a
time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the
battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”