‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ seeks feedback from spouses

| September 7, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials mailed out 150,000 new “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” surveys, Aug. 23, this time seeking input from military spouses about the potential repeal of the law that bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly, officials said.

“We understand the inextricable link between the families, service members and readiness, and this survey is a way to try to better understand that,” Gen. Carter Ham, commander, U.S. Army-Europe, said in a recent Pentagon Channel interview.

Ham and Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, were appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to head a special review panel that’s studying the possible implications on the military should Congress decide to repeal the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

“What we’re trying to gauge is an assessment that if this law is repealed, and this Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is changed, what will that mean to our families?” Ham said. “By better understanding the impacts of possible repeal, we’ll be able to craft policies, procedures, education and training to address those issues.”

The group has been meeting with troops and family members since February. The surveys are important to the panel’s research, Ham added, because time and financial constraints preclude meeting with every service member and spouse.

The surveys give the panel a baseline of information that best represents the military’s 2.2 million service members and their families, the general said. In June, 400,000 surveys were e-mailed to active duty and reserve component troops throughout the force. The deadline for their response was Aug. 15.

The spouse survey is somewhat different from the one taken by the service members, Ham said, noting the spouse survey is not as lengthy or comprehensive, and it zeroes in on family readiness.

Also, the spouse survey is a hard-copy form, rather than the digital e-mail form troops received. It should take spouses about 15  to 20 minutes to complete, he said.

“We know there’s a very real connection between family readiness and military readiness,” Ham said. “We want to make sure we understand what that dynamic might be if the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy were to change.”

The spouse survey responses are confidential, like those of the service members’ survey. Ham emphasized that the surveys and responses for both groups can’t be traced. 

The company managing the survey distribution and gathering the results is not a Defense Department organization and does not have access to personally identifiable information of military members.

The spouse surveys were mailed to 80,000 reserve-component and 70,000 active duty spouses. The spouses will have a little more than 30 days to complete and return their surveys, Ham said. 

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