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Survey will permit informed decisions, official says

WASHINGTON -- Survey responses on the possible repeal of the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military will allow leaders to make informed decisions, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said July 10.

The survey was designed to be a confidential conversation between a Defense Department working group studying the matter, in particular, and a large representative sample of the force, Mr. Morrell said.

The survey is also designed to gauge the attitudes of members of the force on how to proceed if Congress repeals the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, and is not a referendum on whether or not the law should be repealed, Mr. Morrell said.

The answers, he added, will inform the working group's deliberations.

Pentagon officials worked with a professional and reputable polling firm to produce the survey, Mr. Morrell said. Roughly, the first third of the 103 questions seeks demographic information. The second third asks about professional and military experience. The final third asks how the law's repeal might affect the individual being surveyed.

The working group, led by Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, has already spoken with 14,000 servicemembers, Mr. Morrell said. Another 33,000 servicemembers have interacted with the department electronically.

Of the responses to date many included concerns about privacy issues.

"Clearly, a component of this scientific survey had to deal with privacy questions," Mr. Morrell said.

Ten survey questions address privacy issues surrounding bathing facilities, living facilities and social settings.

"We think it would be irresponsible to conduct a survey that didn't address these questions because when 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is repealed, we will have to determine if there are any challenges in those particular areas, any adjustments that need to be made in terms of how we educate the force, or perhaps even facility adjustments that need to be made to deal with those scenarios, Mr. Morrell said.

"But we won't know any of that until we get a sense from the force of their attitudes," he continued. "It could turn out, based on this survey, that there are far fewer concerns than we are led to believe. There could more or different concerns than we had anticipated."

But DOD officials need the information generated from this survey to make smart decisions, Mr. Morrell said.

"We need people to participate in this survey to get a scientific understanding of the attitudes of the force, or the concerns, or issues, or opportunities that may result from a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he said.