Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell scholar Nathaniel Frank — formerly of the Palm Center — is out with a new report detailing how the ban against open service undermines the military — which supporters of the policy claim to be preserving. But as Frank explains, “[f]ar from protecting military readiness, the policy has harmed it, sacrificing badly needed personnel that is replaced with less qualified talent; undermining cohesion, integrity, and trust through forced dishonesty; hurting the morale of gay troops by limiting their access to support services; wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars; invading the privacy of all service members—gay and non-gay alike—by casting a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty over the intimate lives of everyone in the armed forces; and damaging the military’s reputation which makes it harder to recruit the best and brightest America has to offer.”
Frank’s report substantiates what many of the recent personal stories of closeted soldiers have described anecdotally. He lists 12 ways in which the military is harmed by the policy (I’m excerpting the top five below):
1. Waste the talents of thousands of essential personnel with “critical skills” who were fired for their sexual orientation — 757 troops with “critical occupations” were fired under the policy between fiscal years 1994 and 2003.
2. Strike at the heart of unit cohesion by breaking apart cohesive fighting teams — a 2009 study published in Military Psychology found that sexual orientation disclosure is positively related to unit cohesion, while concealment and harassment are related negatively. Forcing troops to conceal their sexual orientation appears to reduce cohesion.
3. Hamper recruitment and retention by shrinking the pool of potential enlistees — an additional 41,000 qualified gay Americans might join if the ban were lifted, and an additional 4,000 personnel might remain in uniform
4. Lower the quality of military personnel by discharging capable gay troops leaving slots to be filled through “moral waivers” that admit felons, substance abusers, and other high-risk recruits.
5. Infect the morale of the estimated 66,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops and their military peers who must serve in a climate of needless alienation, dishonesty, and fear
It’s worth pointing out that while these effects on military readiness are easily verifiable (by the Pentagon’s own reports no less), the claims from the other side about how repealing the policy would harm the institution have yet to be experienced by any of the 26 NATO allies that allow open service.