DADT Repeal will Weaken Our Military

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell– the 17-year old policy against homosexuals serving openly in the military– is set to pass Congress this weekend.  And contrary to triumphant Democrats, this repeal will weaken our military’s combat effectiveness.

The results from the Pentagon study seem pretty clear.  40% of combat troops, including 58% of Marines, believe DADT should not be repealed.  Nearly one in four servicemen said they would probably or certainly leave the military earlier than planned if DADT were repealed– a full 8% said repealing DADT would impact their decision more than any other factor, including pay and retirement benefits and combat environment.  The number of combat troops saying that an openly gay member in their unit would negatively impact unit cohesion outnumbered those saying it would have a positive effect by roughly 4-to-1.

By contrast, consider the population that would be newly allowed to serve in the military if DADT is passed.  Homosexuals make up about 2% of this nation’s population (just ask any anonymous poll).  Of these, only about 1 in 6 consider it important to tell those that they are serving with that they are gay (the Pentagon survey found that only 15% of gay servicemen would come out after DADT).  All in all, we’re looking at expanding the ranks of our military by probably half a percent, tops.

Even if we suppose that the vast, vast majority of those who say they will leave the military in response to DADT’s repeal are lying, we’re still faced with a fairly ugly trade-off.  Considering the concentration of DADT supporters in the front lines, the effect could be even more pronounced, with the small gains in personnel coming in non-combat personnel, and the exodus coming from front line troops.

I’m a fairly big supporter of gay rights– in no way am I praising or supporting the personal opinions of those 1-in-4 servicemen who say they will cut their duty short in response to repeal.  But our military is not meant to be a vehicle for social change.  Our military is tasked with one purpose– to defend our nation.  To subordinate it to any other aim, to politicize it in the service of some sort of social goal, shows reckless disregard for our security.

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2 Responses to DADT Repeal will Weaken Our Military

  1. Ken Haggerty '11 says:

    Hi Keith: Isn’t it just statistical that 4-to-1 soldiers (i.e., approx. 80% of troops) think repealing DADT would have a negative impact on unit cohesion, given that 1-in-4 soldiers (i.e., approx. 25% of troops) would leave if DADT is repealed? If a “unit” is made up of 6 soldiers, then the probability that all 6 soldiers are fine with DADT repeal is 17.8% (i.e., (3/4)^6), and if all soldiers in a unit are aware of each other’s beliefs, then is it really a surprise that 80% said that unit cohesion would be negatively impacted?

  2. Keith Yost says:

    To my knowledge, the fraction of troops that believe there will be negative effects is about ~45% (with ~11% saying there would be positive effects). Admittedly that number changes a little for soldiers who believe they actually served in a unit with a gay leader, co-worker, or subordinate– I think the numbers go down to ~25-30% saying it had a negative effect on unit performance and morale, and 5-6% saying it had a positive effect– either the soldiers views changed, or, as is common in polls, people tend to believe their driving/congressmen/schools/children/military unit is above average. In any case, your calculation doesn’t take into account the fraction of soldiers who don’t think the policy makes a difference or already think their unit is de facto integrated.

    I don’t think the average number of soldiers in an immediate unit is 6.

    And finally, your calculation wouldn’t explain the small percentage who think the impact would be positive.

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