[This media availability takes place following the Honor Cordon for Minister of Defense Dimitur Pavlov, Republic of Bulgaria, at the Pentagon]
Q: Mr. Secretary, a legal rights group reports today that, despite the intent of "don't ask, don't tell," that homosexuals in the military are being harassed worse than ever, and if, in fact, officers are condoning "witch hunts," what would be your response to that?
Secretary Perry: I'll hold that question for a moment, Charlie. I want to first of all find out if there's any foreign press here who might want to ask a question of the Bulgarian minister.
I would be very concerned if that allegation were true. The evidence that I have doesn't support that conclusion. We see over that last five years, on the average, about the same number of discharges, with some statistical fluctuation from year to year. We're running at a rate of about 700 a year. So, there's no evidence -- from just a pure statistical point of view -- that the problem is worse or better.
Secondly we have reports -- mostly anecdotal reports -- of harassment. Anytime we get a specific of that sort we investigate it. Particularly, in this legal defense report which compiles a number of such allegations, I've asked my staff to investigate that report very carefully. We do not accept harassment of any individual in the military; but it's very difficult to deal with anecdotal accounts of harassment. Nearly all the people who, in fact, were discharged under this did not challenge the proceedings.
So, on balance, Charlie, the evidence I have does not support those allegations. Nevertheless, we take them seriously and will continue to look into them.
Q: Has this policy succeeded in ending the so-called witch hunts for homosexuals in the military?
A: Well the allegation is that it has not; and I say, that is a serious allegation. I do not have the evidence to support that allegation, but we take it seriously and we will look into it very carefully.
Q: If the statistics now indicate that the situation has neither improved nor worsened, what does that say about the policy?
A: What it says about the policy is that it was not a very significant change. And, indeed, the law which came out in 1994 is the law which we follow today the law which our regulations conform to do not mandate a very substantial change. So, I would not have expected to see a substantial change in the discharges and nothing in the statistics tends to indicate that.
Q: Thank you Mr. Secretary.