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Operation Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Success

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One year after the repeal, the armed forces hasn't taken much of a hit at all in terms of morale, performance, cohesion, or LGB-targeted violent backlashes.

CREDIT: Flickr / mattradickal

Before the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy was repealed last year, some general officers predicted the “break” of the all-volunteer force, retired admirals foresaw an impact on leadership, and upper-level officials prepared for enlistment to reach an all-time low. And conservative radio show host, Rush Limbaugh, an outspoken opponent of the repeal, described proponents of the repeal as “the same people who have only shown hatred and contempt for the US military.”

But one year after the repeal, the armed forces hasn't taken much of a hit at all in terms of morale, performance, cohesion, or LGB-targeted violent backlashes. A new study, "One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness," shows that the repeal had "no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale."

One reason why? Millennials.

As Peter W. Singer and Aaron Belkin, the director of the research group, that published the report, write

Those who predicted doom ignored that the military of today is staffed by young, millennial men and women who do not share the anti-gay sentiments of previous generations. They ignored empirical research, drawn from over half a century of evidence gathered by independent researchers and the U.S. military itself. They ignored the experiences of allied militaries in places like the UK, Australia, and Israel, all of which found that open service would not be destructive. They ignored that planning and leadership are the keys to successful policy change, and that the U.S. military excels at both. Simply put, their predictions of peril were endemic of the "post-truth" practice so common in politics today: hype and hysteria as a poor substitute for facts and substance.

The survey suggests homophobic and conservative radio personalities and other talking heads owe an apology to our nation's troops for assuming they would undermine national security due to their armed brothers' and sisters' sexual orientation. 

In the comparison of 2011 pre-repeal and 2012 post-repeal data, the study, conducted by a group of U.S. military school professors writing for the Palm Center, found that that service members described no changes in the level of military readiness or cohesion after DADT's repeal, even in units that only included openly LGB service members. (Transgender service members aren't privy to the same protections the repeal extends to LGB communities, and therefore were left out of the report.)

Some choice findings in the study suggest that the repeal even boosted overall troop morale by fostering an environment of trust, bonding, openness, and honesty, which allows LGB service members to fully embrace their identity among their hetero peers and lets them—for the first time—address and resolve issues with commanders in the open.

Group-cohesiveness, which is crucial to maintaining our national security, also appeared to be improved: Without the threat of being outed (from the closet and the armed forces) hovering over LGB service members, the barriers that once stood between them and their heterosexual counterparts in cementing bonds of trust necessary to do their work on the air, ground, and sea could start being chipped away.

"One Year Out" recognizes that its research does not address service by transgender troops, nor does DADT’s repeal affect the disqualification of transgender soldiers. According to OutServe, the sooner the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, replaces “Gender Identity Disorder” and “Transvestic Fetishism” with the more correct term “Gender Dysphoria,” the sooner the military may consider lifting the ban on transgender soldiers.

(Read More: Mental Illness Manual Will Change Transgender Diagnosis.)

In July, as a result of years of lobbying and political pressure, officials announced that the DSM's next edition will be replacing outdated terms. While this will not have an immediate impact on transgender soldiers, it is a step in the right direction.

Jennifer Hicks is a Communications Intern for Campus Progress.

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