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IG Teams to Assess Dont Ask, Dont Tell Climate

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 1999 – The DoD Inspector General will assess the atmosphere surrounding the militarys homosexual service policy, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced Dec. 13.

IG teams will visit representative military installations of all services to determine the extent that harassment of perceived homosexual service members occurs.

The militarys homosexual policy is known as dont ask, dont tell. The policy grew out of a 1993 DoD proposal and was enshrined in law in 1994. The policy allows homosexuals to stay in the services so long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation. Conversely, supervisors are not to ask subordinates about their sexual orientation.

In 1997, Cohen ordered a review of the policy. DoD released the results of the review in August. One adopted recommendation of the review requires that DoD guidance on the homosexual policy be "effectively disseminated to all levels of command" and be made part of training programs for law enforcement personnel, commanders and supervisors. Instruction must also be incorporated into recruit training and for service members to attend refresher training thereafter.

Another result of the review seeks to institute consistent and fair application of the policy. It recommends installation staff judge advocates consult with senior legal officers prior to the initiation of an investigation into alleged homosexual conduct.

The review and the recommendations received more prominence due to the murder July 5 of Army Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Ky. Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat allegedly because he was gay.

Commanders at Fort Campbell announced earlier that they would institute a review of the command climate at the post. Cohens IG assessment will do the same thing at many other installations. DoD officials did not say which installations the IG team will visit. The DoD IG has 90 days to report back to Cohen.

The IG will assess the human relations environment in the military services with respect to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon during a press conference. The extent to which disparaging speech or expression with respect to sexual orientation occurs or is tolerated by individuals in the chain of command will also be assessed.

Cohen has stressed since the beginning that commanders must understand the policy and enforce it fairly. Harassment of any kind is not acceptable in the U.S. military, he said. "As I have previously indicated, I am determined that the policy on homosexual conduct in the military be clearly understood and fairly enforced," Cohen said in a written statement. "This is critically important, as the effectiveness of the Department's application and enforcement of the policy has a direct relationship to unit cohesion and readiness."

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