When the co-chairs of the Pentagon’s DADT “Working Group” testified before Congress, they promised to develop a system of consulting with gay members without inadvertently outing them. “We envision outreach through social media so that a wide variety of individuals both within the Department of Defense and without who will have views on this matter have an opportunity for their voice to be heard,” General Carter Ham, one of the working group’s co-chairs said.
Since March, the group has conducted public discussions and met with chaplains, Reserve Flag Officers and Sailors, veteran organizations, foreign military leaders who allow gay servicemembers to serve openly and assorted service members and their families. Recently, the Defense Department established a temporary website that would allow servicemembers to comment on the policy. It’s unclear, however, if the comments can be traced back to their source or if gay members could be outed when they reveal their orientation:
The recently created site — www.defense.gov/dadt — is accessible only by using a DOD-issued Common Access Card, which most family members don’t have. And use of the CAC card means that any comments are potentially traceable back to their source. The website urges users to be “open and honest” with their responses. But they also are reminded “don’t use your name or the names of others … The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Law’ is still in effect.”….The website offers a blank “comment box” but no guidelines regarding what kinds of opinions are being sought. [...]
All comments will be reviewed by a third-party contractor, who will take out any names or other potential identifiers provided in the online comment box before submitting them to the DOD working group reviewing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Smith said. Still, a user agreement at the site warns that the working group “cannot guarantee the confidentiality of the information you provide.” Using a CAC to get to the site creates a digital log-in record. But Smith said DOD won’t be “going back through the system to identify anyone who has given us this feedback.”
A message on the site indicates that a “confidential mechanism” for offering feedback is still under construction.
The group is scheduled to produce a final report by December 1, but some have questioned the purpose or utility of soliciting opinions altogether, since “It’s not usual for us to go to the military and to have necessarily them believe that their personal feelings are going to determine the policy that moves forward.” If anything, previous surveys have found that a growing number of servicemembers have no problem serving with openly gay or lesbian troops.
Incidentally, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has also launched a campaign collecting video testimonials from gay and straight servicemembers and veterans, speaking to the failure of the DADT ban. Submit a video here.