DoD Clarifies "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 1999 All service members will undergo training that will clarify DoD's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the military, DoD officials said Aug. 13.
The policy -- promulgated in 1994 -- allowed homosexuals to stay in the services so long as they did not discuss their sexual orientation. Conversely, supervisors are not to ask subordinates about their sexual orientation.
No major changes to the policy are contemplated, said DoD officials. The clarification was based on recommendations sent to Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, by a DoD working group in April 1998.
The group's recommendations have received more prominence due to the death 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. An Article 32 hearing is under way at the post deciding whether to charge Pvt. Calvin Glover with murder.
Pentagon officials want all harassment to stop. Under the new guidelines, recruits will receive training explaining harassment of any service member is unacceptable. "The bottom line is to treat all others with respect and dignity," said DoD spokesperson Army Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott.
De Leon signed two memos dealing with the homosexual conduct policy. One 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. The memo requires the instruction to be incorporated into recruit training and for service members to attend refresher training thereafter.
The other memo 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.
If commanders wish to initiate an investigation into whether a service member made a statement regarding his or her homosexuality just to get out of serving in the military, it must be approved at the military department level.
Finally, the memo tasks service inspectors general to specifically check on the training of commanders, attorneys and investigators, who are charged with application of the homosexual policy.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said most commanders understand the policy and institute it fairly. "The department is determined to implement the homosexual conduct policy with fairness to all concerned," Cohen said in a written statement. "I've made it clear there is no room for harassment or threats in the military. I've instructed the military services to make sure that the policy is clearly understood and fairly enforced."
In 1998, DoD discharged 1,145 service members under the policy. Most of those were discharged because the individuals came forward.