Poll on Gays in the Military Perturbs Palm Center

Written by Elaine Donnelly

February 17, 2009
by Elaine Donnelly
Center for Military Readiness

The Michael D. Palm Center, which promotes gay causes from its base at the University of California at Santa Barbara, issued a January 13 news release objecting to an annual survey done by the Gannett-owned Military Times.  The widely-read liberal newspaper supports the Center's cause, but it turned the Palm Center purple by releasing the results of its annual poll seeking the opinions of active-duty people on the issue of gays in the military.

 The Palm Center, which recently changed its name from the "Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM)," sponsors a website displaying numerous papers that promote gay activist causes, including an August 2008 report titled "Transgender People in the U.S. Military."  

The Palm Center also touts civilian polls producing the unremarkable finding that respondents are "comfortable" with homosexuals.  The Center nevertheless chastised me for referring to them as a gay activist group.  Given their "fully transparent" agenda, why is the Palm Center so defensive and uncomfortable with the phrase "gay activist?"  Perhaps they will explain why there is anything wrong with that.

This kerfuffle ensued when the 2008 Military Times Poll found for the fourth year in a row that approximately 58% of active-duty respondents were opposed to efforts to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy." The catchphrase incorrectly labels the 1993 law, Section 654, Title 10, which clearly states that homosexuals are not eligible to be in the military.

In 2008 the Military Times, which favors repeal of the law, asked a new survey question that drew astonishing results: "If the ‘don't ask, don't tell' policy is overturned and gays are allowed to serve openly, how would you respond?" The Military Times news story emphasized that 71% of respondents said they would continue to serve.  But almost 10% said "I would not re-enlist or extend my service," and 14% said "I would consider not re-enlisting or extending my service." Only 6% expressed "No Opinion." 

As I stated in a previous article for National Review Online, if the opinions of Reserve and National Guard troops are similar to those of active-duty personnel surveyed in the Military Times Poll, and if the survey's findings approximate the number of military people who would not reenlist or would consider ending their careers if the 1993 law is repealed, combined losses in all military communities would be huge and devastating for the volunteer force.  

--  A rough estimate using Defense Department numbers for all service branches and components, totaling more than 2 million, indicates that a loss of one in ten (almost 10%) would cost the military approximately 228,600 people - more than the active-duty Marine Corps (200,000).

--  If an additional 14% decided to leave, the voluntary exodus would translate into a loss of almost 527,000 - a figure approaching the size of today's active-duty Army (more than 545,000).

--  Estimates of losses in active-duty forces alone would range between 141,000 (10%) and 323,000 (23%).

I also stated that these responses from active duty people are not an exact prediction.  They are significant, however, especially when major efforts are underway to increase the Army and Marine Corps.  We cannot afford to lose almost a quarter of the volunteer force, especially among careerists in grades and skills that are not quickly or easily replaceable.  

The Palm Center keeps forgetting that no one is required to enlist or re-enlist in the volunteer force.  Military professionals follow orders and honor contracts that would not allow them to end their military careers overnight, but if they choose to leave or avoid the military in great numbers, shortages would be devastating to the volunteer force.

Contrary to the Palm Center's insinuations, Military Times editors did not misrepresent the methodology of their poll.  As in previous years, the Times mailed surveys to subscribers at random, but they only counted responses from almost 2,000 active-duty military.   (Due to security considerations, polling companies cannot reach active-duty people directly.) 


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