Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the 400,000 surveys emailed to active and reserve troops about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as “very important,” telling reporters at a briefing this afternoon that the he personally “suggested that they double the size of the sample.” “The original proposal was to sample 100,000 active troops and 100,000 in the reserve component and I strongly suggested that they double the size of the sample,” Gates said. “I wanted a significant percentage of the force to have an opportunity to offer their views on this.”
He stressed that “it is very important for us to understand from our men and women in uniform the challenges that they see” and explained that the survey would “help us prepare better to implement those changes when and if the law is changed.” Gates also pushed back against SLDN’s warnings that LGB service members could inadvertently out themselves by taking part in the questionnaire and promised that the results would remain confidential:
GATES: I would say that this survey is a very important element of this effort, in part because while General Ham and General counsel J. Johnson have talked to thousands of troops and dozens of military facilities, and we have gone several tens of thousands of comments and views by email in response to the request for people’s thoughts on this, this size sampling is obviously the most significant element of getting the views of the troops…I am aware there is at least one group that has suggested that gays and lesbians in the service not fill in the report….I strongly encourage gays and lesbians who are in the military to fill all the forms. We have organized this in a way to protect their privacy and confidentiality of their responses through a third-party, and it is important that we hear from them as well as everybody else.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen added that the survey is “going to be able to give us objective information with respect to the responses from the people that we care about the most,” but also described DADT as “a law that needs to be changed.” “It really needs to be changed from that perspective.”
Many repeal advocates have questioned the rationale behind subjecting the policy and the rights of gays and lesbians to a poll. It’s also unclear why the survey asks soldiers about whether the policy should be repealed, since the Pentagon has insisted since February that the study would focus on how, not whether, the policy should be repealed.