Tonight, NBC News’ Richard Engel has learned some early results from the Pentagon’s Working Group study of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. According to military sources who have seen the report, a majority of American troops would either not object to serving alongside openly gay troops or would raise any concerns directly with their gay peers:
ENGEL: The findings are that for most soldiers, and this wasn’t the sum total of all soldiers, it wasn’t that big of a deal…The majority — the number one answer, first answer was ‘I don’t care.’ That’s significant.
MADDOW: Predominant answer is ‘no big deal.’
ENGEL: Most common, number one. Number two was, ‘I would deal directly with the person involved.’ So when you put the two of those together, it is the majority. Now, there were some people who said, three, they would go to the chain of command and some four, who hated it, hated it. But the answers one and two are considered positive. So these studies show a relative if not positive outlook, at least an accepting outlook.
MADDOW: So the military study is, as you said, the survey of the troops is part of it. It’s an overall study of the feasibility of the issue….this survey of the troops, what you’ve learned is that a majority of troops it’s not going to be a major deal.
ENGEL: Not a deal breaker, that they they’re not going to be running from the army in droves. A key thing this study kept coming back to is that it’s very important about the chain of command. What commanders say. How far commanders act. What tone they set. The marines were the most negative out of the services. They had the most people who were — with negative responses. And the marine corps leadership has taken a stance and has been very vocally against this issue. And the study found that most soldiers and sailors and all different service members follow a chain of command. So if the chain of command accepts this as the law, the data is that so will the soldiers.
The study, which Engel described as the ‘core’ of the Pentagon’s review, is particularly significant since moderate Republicans have pledged to listen to the troops before voting to repeal the policy. In fact, when Republican (and several Democrats) filibustered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — the bill in which the amendment to repeal the ban is housed — most argued that their final vote would depend on the study. Now that the results seem positive, they should have no reason to oppose the measure:
— SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R-ME): “We should all have the opportunity to review that [DADT] report which is to be completed on December 1, as we reevaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes.”
— SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R-MA): “The Pentagon is still in the midst of its study of the matter, and its report is due in December…. I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military.”
— SEN. GEROGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): “The DREAM Act deals with immigration and shouldn’t be on this bill. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a controversial issue that needs to be debated on the Senate floor but I believe it would be logical to wait for the Department of Defense to issue its report on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”
— SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): “I do not support the idea of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before our military members and commanders complete their review. This so-called compromise would repeal the legislation first then receive input from the military. This is not the proper way to change any policy, particularly something as controversial as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
— SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): “Let’s let the military professionals work through their process. I’d hate to kind of short-circuit that with congressional action, so I’d rather let that occur before we start making policy here on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
The final results are due the first week of December. Earlier today, Alex Nicholson of Servicemembers United outlined a strategy for how advocates could use the study to urge the Senate to repeal the policy in the lame duck session.