In response to a decade of research released by UCSB, over 100 retired United States military leaders have drafted a petition to repeal the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
One hundred and four retired generals and admirals signed the petition last month after reports from UCSB’s Palm Center – a campus-based think tank that studies U.S. public policy – determined that the inclusion of open gays and lesbians in the military does not negatively impact a unit’s cohesion.
Aaron Belkin founder and director of the Palm Center, said he believes his research – combined with the support of reputable military leaders – represents major steps toward abolishing the Clinton-era policy.
“I believe repeal of the law is inevitable,” Belkin, a professor in the political science department, said in an email. “Roughly 75 percent of the public favors repeal [of “don’t ask, don’t tell”], and there’s only so long the policy can withstand such widespread public opposition.”
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibits individuals who “demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the military. The federal law, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, was designed to appease military officials who believed openly gay servicemen and servicewomen would threaten unity and performance
Indra Lusero, assistant director at the Palm Center, said the dissenting military leaders’ recent rejection of the policy was a major step toward its abolishment and an accomplishment for the scholarly organization
“We’re a think tank whose focus has been “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the last ten years,” Lusero said. “It’s never happened before that so many retired generals and admirals have come out against the policy, so it’s a remarkable number of leaders calling for change.”
Lusero said despite the U.S. Army’s current stance on openly gay servicemen and women, there is a high probability the policy could be overturned.
“It’s absolutely a possibility,” Lusero said. “Our research shows that the policy is harming the military… its definitely not helping. The reasons for keeping it are diminishing. I think the question at this point is not whether it will happen, but when and how.”
Senior research fellow Nathaniel Frank, however, warned that the military leaders’ appeal was just one part of the gradual repeal process and cautioned observers not to expect any immediate change.
“I don’t think there are going to be any short-term effects because of this appeal,” Frank said. “This document is part of the momentum, which began to increase after 9/11, from people in favor of the open gay ban who began to see that it wasn’t working and was a great loss to the military.”
The Palm Center focuses on providing research to dispel problematic and dated public policy practices across the nation. For the past decade, the center has commissioned and broadcasted studies on the subjects of gender and sexuality and their role in the military.
According to Frank, research on the “don’t’ ask, don’t tell” policy was pooled from a variety of sources, including performance and cohesion studies in sports, international interviews of military personnel and input from foreign ministries of defense such as Canada, Israel, Australia and Great Britain. Comprised of independent scholars, students, journalists, opinion leaders and members of the general public, the center is one of 13 official units of UCSB Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research.