DOD needs completed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' surveys
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak during a press conference at the Pentagon, July 8, 2010. During the briefing, Gates urged servicemembers to provide their input to an e-mai... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 26, 2010) -- Only about 10 percent of the 400,000 servicemembers asked to complete a survey about possible repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law have responded so far, and DoD officials said they need to hear from the rest.

"It's important for them to return the survey so we understand possible impacts associated by repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law," said DoD spokesperson Cynthia Smith. She added that officials need to know how the repeal would impact unit cohesion, military readiness, recruiting, retention and family readiness.

A total of 200,000 active servicemembers and another 200,000 in the Reserve and National Guard were e-mailed July 7 with a link to an online questionnaire about possible impacts of repealing the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

So far, only about 40,000 of those randomly selected have completed the survey instrument, Smith said. Respondents have until Aug. 15 to complete the questionnaire.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Defense 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.

"I think it is very important for us to understand from our men and women in uniform the challenges that they see," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Pentagon news conference earlier this month, noting that the department needs their views on the subject and the challenges they see to implementing a possible change to the law.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, 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," Gates said. "This size sampling is obviously the most significant element of getting the views of the troops."

The survey - released yesterday - will go to 200,000 active-duty servicemembers and 200,000 reserve-component personnel. 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.

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," 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."

DoD also has an online inbox at for additional feedback from any common-access-card holders.

(Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service wrote the original article which was updated for this report.)

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