How to End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

A Roadmap of Political, Legal, Regulatory, and Organizational Steps to Equal Treatment
May 11, 2009
Aaron Belkin, Nathaniel Frank, Gregory M. Herek, Elizabeth L. Hillman, Diane H. Mazur, Bridget J. Wilson
Palm Center

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Executive Summary

President Barack Obama has stated his intention to end the Pentagon policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The federal statute governing this policy, Section 571 of the FY1994 National Defense Authorization Act, codified at 10 U.S.C. § 654, is titled “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces” and has come to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

While strong majorities of the public, and growing numbers within the military, support such a change, some political leaders and military members have expressed anxiety about what impact it will have on the armed forces. Scholarly evidence shows that the ban on service by openly gay personnel is unlikely to impair military effectiveness or to harm recruiting, retention or unit cohesion. Yet questions remain as to how best to execute and manage the transition from exclusion to inclusion of openly gay personnel in a way that takes into consideration the concerns and sensitivities of the military community. In this report, we address political, legal, regulatory, and organizational steps that will ensure that the implementation process goes smoothly. We begin by suggesting six key points that should be kept in mind as policymakers consider the change.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary                       
Expected Impact of Service by Openly Gay Personnel
Presidential Authority to Suspend Discharges for Homosexual Conduct
Regulatory Revisions that should Accompany Policy Change
Organizational Changes that should Accompany Policy Change
Responses to 1993 Questions by Senator Sam Nunn   
Draft Executive Order Suspending Discharges for Homosexual Conduct
Relevant Sources                           
Contributors

Download the study here.
Executive Summary President Barack Obama has stated his intention to end the Pentagon policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The federal statute governing this policy, Section 571 of the FY1994 National Defense Authorization Act, codified at 10 U.S.C. § 654, is titled “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces” and has come to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” While strong majorities of the public, and growing numbers within the military, support such a change, some political leaders and military members have expressed anxiety about what impact it will have on the armed forces. Scholarly evidence shows that the ban on service by openly gay personnel is unlikely to impair military effectiveness or to harm recruiting, retention or unit cohesion. Yet questions remain as to how best to execute and manage the transition from exclusion to inclusion of openly gay personnel in a way that takes into consideration the concerns and sensitivities of the military community. In this report, we address political, legal, regulatory, and organizational steps that will ensure that the implementation process goes smoothly. We begin by suggesting six key points that should be kept in mind as policymakers consider the change.
Table of Contents Executive Summary                        Expected Impact of Service by Openly Gay Personnel Presidential Authority to Suspend Discharges for Homosexual Conduct Regulatory Revisions that should Accompany Policy Change Organizational Changes that should Accompany Policy Change Responses to 1993 Questions by Senator Sam Nunn    Draft Executive Order Suspending Discharges for Homosexual Conduct Relevant Sources                            Contributors