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DoD Reviews Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 1997 – Defense officials are reviewing DoD's policy on homosexuals in the military.

Under the direction of Fred Pang, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, officials are looking at two major policy elements, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said here Aug. 8.

The first element is the number of people discharged every year because they've either announced they are homosexuals or because officials discovered they are homosexuals, Bacon said. "That number has risen over the last several years, and we want to understand why it's risen."

The second part of the study is looking at specific charges made by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and other groups about inappropriate investigations, Bacon said. "We want to find out if those allegations are correct or not."

The study's goal is to determine if the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy is clearly understood by enlisted members and officers -- particularly commanders -- and whether it's being consistently and fairly enforced throughout the military, Bacon said.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen directed officials to conduct the review now that the law has been in effect for about three years and data are available, Bacon said. The intent is not to change the law, he said, but to see how well it's understood and implemented.

About 850 service members were discharged for homosexuality in fiscal 1996, according to DoD officials. Junior enlisted (E-1 to E-4) made up 90 percent of the separations. Of those discharged, about 76 percent left after admitting they are homosexuals. About 23 percent were discharged for committing a homosexual act. About 83 percent had less than five years in service, and 93 percent were younger than 30.

Section 654 of 10 U.S. Code, enacted in November 1993, states "the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."

The law requires discharge of service members who engage in homosexual conduct, which includes homosexual acts, statements demonstrating a propensity or intent to engage in such acts, or homosexual marriage or attempted marriage, DoD officials said. The law prohibits inquiries or investigations solely to determine a service member's sexual orientation. A commander must initiate an investigation, however, upon receipt of credible information that a service member has engaged in homosexual conduct.

The policy review, expected to be completed by the end of the year, is one of three ongoing reviews regarding sexual conduct in the military. DoD officials are reviewing mixed-gender training, provisions governing good order and discipline, and rules governing adultery.

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