Essay in DoD journal
urges repeal of gay ban
By William H.
McMichael - Staff writer from the Web, September 30, 2009
An essay published in a top Pentagon
journal calls on the Obama administration to repeal the ban on service by openly
gay people in the military.
The essay was penned for Joint Force Quarterly, the Joint Chiefs chairman’s
“flagship joint military and security studies journal,” by Air Force Col. Om
Prakash, a student at the National Defense University in Washington. The
essay took first place in 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay
“It is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather, it is
time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban,”
He bases that conclusion on several factors:
• The loss of some 12,500 personnel due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law since
its implementation in 1994, and resulting financial impact and loss of skills.
• His conclusion that open service by gays would not degrade social cohesion.
• Polls of the general public that increasingly show acceptance of the concept.
• The difficulties commanders face in enforcing the ban.
• The fact that, by some estimates, about 65,000 gays now serve in the U.S.
Irresolvable to date, he says, is the argument over whether being gay is a
choice, as many opponents of reversing the law argue. If it could be
proven that it is not, Prakash notes that “traditionally, courts have protected
immutable characteristics, and Americans writ large are demonstrably more
accepting of characteristics that an individual cannot change.”
Prakash acknowledges the difficulties the services would face should Congress
reverse the law: respect for privacy, “required just as when women were
fully integrated” into the military; holding gays to the same standards as
others, particularly with regard to fraternization between officers and
enlisteds; legal treatment of gay service members’ partners; how to educate and
lead the force should the law be reversed; and the monitoring of units to ensure
that a changed policy does not result in dysfunction, and how to intervene to
reverse such instances.
On the other hand, Prakash notes, the U.S. military would have the advantage of
studying how integration has taken place in allied militaries that have allowed
gays to serve openly.
“There was no mass exodus of heterosexuals, and there was also no mass
‘coming-out’ of homosexuals,” Prakash writes. “In a survey of over 100
experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom … all agreed the
decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance,
readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the
HIV rate among troops.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Prakash writes, was a political compromise “that has
been costly both in personnel and treasure.” It “forces a compromise in
integrity, conflicts with the American creed of ‘equality for all,’ places
commanders in difficult moral dilemmas and is ultimately more damaging to the
unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve.”
In addition, no scientific evidence supports the claim that unit cohesion will
be negatively affected if gays serve openly, Prakash writes.
He also says that while there is sufficient empirical evidence from allied
militaries’ experiences to indicate that leadership challenges will result from
a change in the law, the challenges “will not be insurmountable or affect unit
cohesion and combat effectiveness.”
Lifting the ban, Prakash writes, “would more clearly represent the social mores
of America in 2009 and more clearly represent the free and open society that
serves as a model for the world.
“Ultimately, service members serving under values they believe in are the most
effective force multipliers.”