MR. MORRELL: This is Geoff Morrell. Can you guys hear me on the conference call?
MR. MORRELL: Okay. Thanks for joining, sorry to do this so late in the day. The primary purpose of this is it’s obviously come to our attention that the survey that we have sent out to 400,000 service members, active duty and reserve, has -- at least portions of it leaked to the press, I think via some of the interest groups. And I’ve seen a lot of stories have been written about it. I think some of them at least, in their tone and in their titles have been inflammatory in the worst case, misleading in the best case. And I wanted to address some of the issues that have been raised thus far in the reporting on this and make myself available for any questions you guys may have.
Obviously, we did not intend for this survey to be shared in such a public fashion. This was designed to be a confidential conversation between the department, between the working group in particular, and a large representative sample of our force. We thought it would be breaking faith with them to -- for us to proactively share the survey, because what we were trying to do is preserve the integrity and the credibility of the answers that it elicits from the force. And the outside commentary, and indeed, the outside pressure from some of the interest groups, frankly, on both sides of this issue is not helpful to this process.
In the worst case, it can deter service members from participating in what we believe to be a vitally important survey; in fact, it is really the only scientifically-supported engagement instrument that we have to get a sense of the attitudes of the force. And it could also potentially, I think, skew the answers, perhaps, of some of those who do choose to participate in the online survey.
That having been said, let me just reiterate the intent of the survey. The intent of the survey is not in any way to conduct a referendum on whether or not there should be a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. That is not the mandate of the working group. The working group has been tasked with discerning the -- how you go about a -- implementing a repeal, when it were to -- it were to take place. And so we have -- we have, working with a very professionally reputable polling firm, produced what we think to be a very credible and professional survey that stands up under scrutiny.
It includes 103 questions, the first third of which are designed to gauge the demographics of the participant; the second third is to try to gauge some of their professional and personal experiences in the military; and the final third, and I think that’s the third that has been most quoted from in some of the pieces I’ve seen, has -- is about trying to gauge the attitudes that the force has about how a repeal might affect the individual being surveyed.
What we’ve found in doing the survey, and one of the biggest factors in terms of determining the questions and how we -- how we structured questions, was that in our initial engagements with the troops -- we’ve done, as you know, I think dozens of forums thus far, we think we’ve hit about 14,000 service members in total thus far, and then also the online conversation that we’ve been having, and we’ve hit about 33,000 people that way, so roughly -- you know, nearly 50,000 thus far -- that privacy concerns were mentioned probably most often. So clearly, a component of this scientific survey had to deal with some privacy questions. And I think of 103 questions, I think there are 10 in total that address those situational privacy scenarios.
I think the ones that have been picked up on most often in the press have obviously dealt with bathing facilities, living facilities, and social settings. We think it would be irresponsible to conduct a survey that didn’t try to 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 to handle those situations, or perhaps even facility adjustments that need to be made to deal with those scenarios. [See end note.]
But we won’t know any of that until we get a sense from the force about their attitudes. It could turn out, based upon this survey, that there are far fewer concerns than we are led to believe. It could turn out there are more or different concerns than we had anticipated. But we need this survey, and we need people to participate in this survey to get a scientific understanding of the attitudes of the force and the concerns or issues or even opportunities that may be posed by a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
So, after that long preamble, I’m happy to take some questions about this. (Inaudible.)
Q Who’s designed the survey?
MR. MORRELL: Well, we’ve talked -- Westat, I think, is the firm.
Q And if the military did not do polls before it integrated units back in ‘48, and if it did not do any sort of polling before it allowed women --
Q (Inaudible.) I’m having a hard time hearing the questions.
MR. MORRELL: Okay, I’ll repeat them.
Q And if the academies did not survey troops to see if women should be allowed, why should the military survey troops on their attitudes towards gays? Why do -- why does their opinion matter to the extent that -- if it’s not a referendum?
MR. MORRELL: Yeah. Okay. Can I -- I got the question. I’ll repeat it for you guys. The question from AP was, if historically, before other integrations have taken place, polling was not done, why is it required now? I frankly don’t know if the premise of the question is correct, that we didn’t poll previously.
Polling has come a long way over the years, and it’s a generally -- it is a generally accepted, but wise practice in order to get a sense of attitudes. And one thing the secretary asked of the working group when he established the working group is that we systematically engage the force. We’re doing so across the -- you know, there are multiple ways that we’re doing so. We’re doing so in person, through these forums. We’re doing so through private online communications, and we’re now doing so through this survey.
But the only mechanism that we have to get a real scientific read from the force is this survey. And we think it’s important, especially with an issue that is potentially as volatile as this one, that is for some people an emotional one, to try to strip the emotion out of it and just try to strip prejudice, potential prejudices out of it and try to get very specific questions to very specific scenarios.
And so it’s to avoid a lot of pre-conceptions.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Geoff -- can I just --
MR. MORRELL: We have -- we have another DOD official here, who -- I am on the record, of course; we have another DOD official here who is on background who is going to chime on this as well.
Q Can I stop? Why can [briefer’s name deleted] not be on the record?
MR. MORRELL: Because I’m speaking to this on the record --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Quote me as a senior Defense official. This is for --
MR. MORRELL: Guys, I will repeat the question. I told you that and I will do so, so bear with us, we’re trying to accommodate people in the room and on the phone. Go ahead.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Just in addition to what Geoff had to say -- (inaudible). The secretary and the chairman -- (inaudible).
MR. MORRELL: I’m going to bring you over here so you can hear. Come over here.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The secretary and the chairman -- (inaudible) -- the secretary and the chairman --
MR. MORRELL: Hey, you guys, do me a favor? Whoever is out there, can you mute your phone? Because I don’t need that -- I’ll come to you guys for questions on the phone and you can open it up then. Let me finish with the room, but the outside noise is not helping.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The secretary and the chairman established the comprehensive working group and the mission of the comprehensive working group, among other things, was to get as comprehensive and wide --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The secretary and the chairman established the comprehensive review working group. The mission of this working group, among other things, was to get as comprehensive an input as possible from the military with regards to the implementation of a repeal and its effect on issues like recruitment and retention and other issues, which are spelled out in the mission, which -- (inaudible) -- as you can see.
The survey is but one vehicle for the working group to do what it has been asked to do. The forums that it has held on bases -- and I think there’s over 30 of them so far, is that right? -- is one method. The survey is another method and the survey, because it is being done by an independent third-party company -- this is their survey. Is this the correct way to put it? It’s their services, their survey -- also provides a mechanism to protect the confidentiality of those who are concerned about engagement in this process. So --
MR. MORRELL: And we never ask this -- we never ask the question, what the respondent’s sexuality is.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. There is no question; there is no question in the survey about do they vote yes or no on repeal. There is nothing in the survey that identifies anybody by sexual orientation. The only reason I’m saying this is, even, I just wanted to add -- what Geoff says stands on the record, but I want -- when you ask, why are we doing this? It is because it is one of a number of mechanisms that the working group believes can get information.
Q On the record, Geoff, you said a few minutes ago it would -- that -- and these are your words, that -- you know, this could possibly lead to --
Q Can’t hear.
MR. MORRELL: I’ll repeat the question.
Go ahead, Barbara. Let’s go.
Q Thank you. Facilities adjustment.
MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
Q I know -- I know of -- I would like to know what you mean by facilities adjustment, and I’d like to know how it is that the department, how they answer the criticism that even asking questions about rooming, showers and bathroom facilities, some people have said is homophobic and presents a homophobic prejudice in the survey?
MR. MORRELL: Okay. I got it, Barbara. I got it. The question is, guys, and then even asking the question about bathing facilities and housing accommodations is homophobic by nature. And I raised the question; I raised the issue in my opening statement about perhaps needing adjustments to facilities themselves. [See end note.]
We think it would have been -- we would not be doing as comprehensive a job as the secretary had asked the working group for us not to delve the issue -- the issue of privacy concerns. And part of peoples’ privacy concerns, as identified to us in our interactions with the force thus far, is in very personal situations, i.e., bathing situations, living situations, socializing situations.
And so we don’t know, scientifically, the attitude of the force with regards to those areas until we poll them. It may turn out that their concerns are not what were indicated in the forums that we participated in. It may turn out they were far less concerned about this than we thought. They may be more concerned about it. But we need to identify any potential problems associated with repeal and then determine how we mitigate those problems.
We have no way of knowing conclusively what the problems are, and therefore have a way to devise a solution to those problems, until we engage the force. And if we avoided these questions and proceeded with a repeal, and proceeded with an implementation that didn’t address this potential problem, we wouldn’t be doing our job. Because the secretary’s attitude about this is he thinks this change should be made, but he’s insisting that it be done smartly.
And so we are going to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure we have the best understanding of the attitudes of the force possible. That is why he doubled the size of the survey group and that is why we are trying to hit the force in as many different ways as possible.
Q I’d like to follow up on the sample size. I know you said the secretary wanted to double --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
Q -- the sample size. But pollsters and statisticians would say you’re oversampling, that if you want really just a measure of attitudes in the force, you’re -- you would only need a few thousand.
MR. MORRELL: Okay.
Q So is this really about just assessing their opinions, or is it making them feel like as broad a cross-section as possible is participating or having their voices heard?
MR. MORRELL: Got it. The question here, guys, is the allegation has been made by some that we’re oversampling, that when the secretary doubled from 200 (thousand) to 400,000 the sampling size, that it’s unnecessary and perhaps it is a gesture to the force of more concern for their opinion than is really necessary.
You know, this is one of those that the secretary decided based upon his own judgment as necessary. And my sense is that he did out at an abundance of caution, out of an abundance of appreciation for the views of the force. And he wants to make sure that they feel as though their voices have been heard, and I don’t believe that anybody thinks there was any harm done. I never heard of any harm being by getting more information rather than less information.
Q Well -- but you say no harm done, but yet this survey --
MR. MORRELL: When we -- and we hope that not only is no harm done, that actually we are getting more information as a result of this.
Q But if you’d only ask a few people, though, than it would be less likely that the survey would leak out, which you say is causing trouble.
MR. MORRELL: Okay. That’s our problem. Who else we got here? Jeff, let’s --
Q How about the phone.
MR. MORRELL: I’ll go to the phone in one sec. I love you on the phone. Jeff? Okay, okay.
Q I’ve heard the complaint that some people are saying that you’re assuming there will be problems, and that’s problematic. What do you say to that?
MR. MORRELL: We aren’t assuming there are problems, but we’ve obviously been engaged with -- okay, the question was, guys, if you couldn’t hear the bellow of Jeff Schogol was that -- (laughter) -- we are assuming there are problems with implementation, and that’s problematic; that’s skewing attitudes.
Jeff, I would say this. We’ve been -- this has been the law now for 17 years or so. We’ve obviously had a great deal of dealings with this issue over the nearly two decades that it’s been the law. We’ve had a lot of interaction with the force over the last several months through these forum -- fora -- and through the online engagements, and we are not creating issues where we believe there to be none.
We are doing this based upon our knowledge -- unscientific -- but our knowledge thus far from our historic engagement with the force on this issue and, more recently, from our more aggressive engagement through the fora and the online correspondence.
Yeah. I’m going to one more in here and then I’m coming to you. Go, Phil.
Q I just want to get a straight response -- (off mike). Do you reject, then, the idea that this survey is inherently biased?
MR. MORRELL: Absolutely. Okay. The question, do I reject out of hand that the survey is biased? Absolutely, unequivocally, I reject it as nonsense. This is the work of an incredibly respected, professional survey organization. We would not be disseminating it to our forces in the numbers we are unless we believed it to be the best vehicle possible to get a scientific sample of the attitudes of the force.
It’s costing us an extraordinary sum of money. It’s taking an extraordinary amount of time and manpower. And it deals with an extraordinarily important issue to this department and this secretary and to the president of the United States.
We’re not playing games here, guys. We’re trying to figure out what the attitudes of our force are, what the potential problems are with repeal, what the potential opportunities there may be available to us as the result of appeal. But we won’t any of that conclusively, scientifically, unless we get this survey done, unless there is full and active participation from those who it’s been sent to, and unless there is not outside influence on their answers.
Yeah. Go to the phone now.
Q Okay, can I ask a question?
MR. MORRELL: Yeah. Go right ahead.
Q Okay. Andrea Stone.
It’s been noted by some groups that when the military integrated African-Americans, when women were allowed to have more jobs in combat --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, question’s been asked and answered. Next question.
Q Can I ask a question?
MR. MORRELL: Yeah, go right ahead.
Q What if -- what if 49 percent of the respondents say they have a problem with taking showers with an openly gay or lesbian service member? How will that -- how will that affect what -- you know, how the department, you know, changes current facilities? I mean, how do you -- how do you assess this information? It doesn’t -- I mean, I number -- just getting a number of people who have concerns about this doesn’t seem to me to lead you in any particular direction.
MR. MORRELL: I -- you know, listen. Is that -- is that David?
MR. MORRELL: David, I would tell you this. I’m not a statistician, but my sense is that there are 103 questions here, and pollsters, based upon the sampling that we’ve put together, will be able to derive more from the answers than just that there is X number who have issues with the showering situation. And I would point you to the fact that -- you don’t have it in front of you, I know, but the question about showering, for example, or living, for example, is not an either/or, but there are gradations. It’s a subjective -- it requires a subjective answer. So we will be able to glean from the answers provided more about the attitudes.
In addition, based upon all the questions that preceded it, demographics, experience and so forth, we’ll be able to get a sense of who it is that’s concerned about this. Are there younger members, less experienced members? Is it the older force? Are they married? Are they -- do they have families? All of this will help our collective wisdom about the situation, and then we’ll make judgments, the working group will.
And this is where the hard part comes in, about with -- armed with all this information, what do we do when repeal takes place to prepare the force for that? Does it require more education? Does it require more training? Does it require, as I mentioned before, adjustments to facilities? We don’t know any of that yet. That’s why we need to find out conclusively through this scientific survey.
Next on the phone.
Q Geoff, Peter Spiegel .
MR. MORRELL: Yeah Peter.
Q Real quick, I don’t know if you said this in your opening that I missed at the very beginning. Who came up with the questions? Was it DOD in consultation with this firm? Did the firm do it on its own? How did that -- how was it come up with?
MR. MORRELL: This was an elaborate process, but obviously we hired professionals for a reason. We obviously contributed to this, we -- they had to know from us what we were trying to get at. They were very familiar with the mandate of the working group and what their responsibility is, and in a collaborative process, the questions were devised. But they’re the pros, they know, based upon what our needs, what the questions are they need to ask in order to help us arrive at the information we need.
Q Do you know if any of these -- the service members united or these rights groups-- were consulted when the survey was put together?
MR. MORRELL: They were not consulted in terms of devising the questions. Obviously the working group has had interaction with the survey, with -- sorry, some of the interest groups along the way. And we’ve tried to be as transparent and forthright as possible, but they did not sit down with us and devise the questions.
MR. MORRELL: Yeah?
Q (Off mike.)
MR. MORRELL: I’m sorry, go right ahead.
Q (Inaudible) -- with The Advocate.
MR. MORRELL: Yes, yeah.
Q You say that there is no bias in these questions. (Inaudible) -- assuming that there are service members who are already serving who are gay and lesbian. In other words, if you say, "Are you comfortable showering with someone who’s gay -- would you be comfortable showering with someone who’s gay or lesbian," there are already gays and lesbians serving. They’re not open, but they’re there. So people are showering with them.
You also use the term "homosexual," which is well known among pollsters to have very negative connotations. I wonder how -- who tested this for not being biased, the language as well as the way that the questions were conceived?
MR. MORRELL: With regard to your first question, I think that there was -- we raised this -- that there’s some sort of hypothetical involved with the showering scenario or the living scenario. I don’t think there is -- I don’t think we’ve approached this survey with some sort of naiveté about the prevalence of gays or lesbians in the force.
Obviously, this survey is built under the assumption that our force is, indeed, serving with gay and lesbian service members, and that’s why we asked them about some of their attitudes towards serving with those members.
There are -- and that’s why some of the questions in here deal with -- ask them outright if they believe they have served with gay service members. We want to get a sense of how many people believe they are serving, and how that impacts their attitudes and so forth.
The question about the terminology here -- you know, it is noted in this survey out front that the term "homosexual" as well as "gays and lesbians" is used interchangeably in this survey. I would point out, however, that the vast preponderance of the references in this survey to sexuality uses the term "gay and lesbian." I think only seven of those references use the term "homosexual."
And when they do use the term "homosexual," it is to elicit a yes-or-no answer. It is never to elicit a subjective answer. We are well aware that, to some, "homosexual" is a loaded term, but it is a term that is in the law, in the regulations, in the policy that has governed this issue for the past 17 years. It is a term that at least some portion of our force is most familiar with.
So we thought it only responsible to use both terms in this survey, but we’ve done so, we think, is a very careful manner where any subjective question refers to gays and lesbians and seven very explicit objective questions use the term "homosexual." We think it is fair in the preponderance of the usage.
Q (Inaudible) -- with Metro Weekly. Despite the fact that the -- I guess the first question is the fact that you -- the Pentagon reported to the Washington Post that the Palm Center’s release of the survey today was incomplete, yet my count of the questions in the Palm Center’s release comes up to nearly 100 or 103.
So I first just wanted to ask if that is accurate that the Palm Center did not release a full survey.
And, second, if that is not so, it doesn’t seem like there are many questions missing. And if the survey isn’t biased, I don’t understand why there is no question that’s been released thus far that relates to the impact of “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges on current unit morale or cohesion and why that question wasn’t asked if this is an unbiased survey.
MR. MORRELL: With regards to the first question, I have not, frankly, personally seen what the Palm Center has posted now. I have received several copies of what reporters were trying to verify to be the questionnaire. In my initial look at those, it looks -- you know, the one copy I got had, for example, 69 questions.
So I think there are some incomplete versions that are floating around out there. I think part of that is related to the fact that a lot of the -- the survey is predicated on the answers you give. So if you respond, for example, in the early questions about demographics, "are you single?" That will prompt other questions -- I think -- something to that nature. And if you’re married, it obviously prompts further question about family life.
So that’s the reason why there may be different versions floating around. And we’ve had to frankly wrestle internally with whether or not we want to try to provide you all with a complete version of this in light of the fact that there are incomplete versions floating around.
In the end, we think that we have an obligation to the integrity of this process to do everything in our power to preserve the credibility of this process and not to break faith with the troops, in the sense that we have been trying to have a confidential, private conversation, a protected conversation with them both in these fora and these online communications and now in this survey. And we just think it is best if we keep it that way as most we can.
And let me take one more from the telephone crowd, and I think we’ve wrapped it up there.
MR. MORRELL: Okay --
Q I’m sorry. Geoff, could you answer the question about why there is no inclusion of anything about the impact of the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on cohesion on current troops?
MR. MORRELL: I frankly don’t know. I’m sure there’s a good explanation. We’ll try to get it for you. I don’t know. I just am not armed with that information.
Let me take another one from the phone. And it sounds like there were two people talking simultaneously. So I’ll give you those two.
Q This is -- (inaudible) -- from Talking Points Memo. (Inaudible) -- the question that I was going to ask because it seems that, you know, in -- (inaudible) -- looking through the whole survey from a methodolological standpoint, it really would have been important to include questions about why people feel that there is discrimination, should be discrimination in the military, whether these problems that they’ve seen as they’re currently serving with gay and lesbian members are a result of people being gay and lesbian or a result of discriminatory policy. (Inaudible) -- out there and really visible -- (inaudible) -- is not even coming into question.
MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I don’t know the answer, frankly, and I think hesitant to speculate. I think one of the issues here is we certainly do, through these questions, get at the fundamental issues of unit cohesion and readiness. And so if in fact, you know, there are issues associated with the discharge of gay members, that may be reflected in those questions. I don’t know.
We’ll try to get you -- if you guys touch base with Cynthia later on, we’ll try to have a definitive answer for you on that question.
Q Can I ask you a clarifying question?
MR. MORRELL: Hold on one second. There was one other --
Q Thank you. This is -- (inaudible) from Politico. I wanted to ask you about cost. You said it’s a very expensive survey.
MR. MORRELL: I think it’s 4 -- about 4 and a half million dollars to -- this is to Westat --
Q I just wanted to -- (inaudible) -- 1,000 people to represent the entire -- (inaudible).
MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I don’t know how much more it cost. It probably was not -- I doubt it was double the cost. There probably were, you know -- but I don’t think -- I frankly don’t think the cost in that respect was an issue for the secretary. I don’t know he said to anybody, hey, bring me the comparative cost of this sample size versus that sample size.
In this case, as he said time and time again, it is better to do this smart than stupid. And he is determined to make sure we do this smartly.
Last question is right here from Barbara Starr.
Q You mentioned facilities adjustment twice.
MR. MORRELL: And I’ve answered it twice. [See end notes.]
Q Well, can I finish my question?
MR. MORRELL: Okay.
Q Thank you. I’d like to know how that’s even remotely legal in this country.
MR. MORRELL: We adjust facilities all the time in this country.
Q What’s the question?
MR. MORRELL: The issue is -- listen -- is it legal to adjust facilities. And, you know -- and, listen, I’m not a lawyer, but --
Q You’re clearly talking about some sort of separate facilities. What else would you be speaking of?
MR. MORRELL: I don’t know what the actual answer would be with regards to adjustment of facilities. [See end note.] That’s one hypothetical. We’ll have to see what the answers provide and what the recommended solutions are from the working group. But it’s premature to speculate as to what may be required. That, obviously, is something that people have speculated about, but we don’t know if that’s going to be something that’s reflected in the polling or in that’s something that the working group is going to recommend.
The point of the matter is we don’t know, and that’s why we want to get a sense.
MR. MORRELL: I understand, and I’m happy to answer it for the third time.
Q And for clarification, you said that you didn’t release these polling questions because it would taint the survey. So -- (inaudible) -- out with the survey tainted?
MR. MORRELL: We certainly -- Our primary concern about the release of the survey questions publicly is that we want to ensure that there is full participation by all those who have received these. And now there is an awful lot of commentary out there as evidenced by, for example, in Salon.com, "The Pentagon asked troops how gross it would be to shower with gay person." That is most certainly not the question that was in the survey.
But this commentary gets out there. There’s chatter among, you know, the chattering classes on cable television and the like. And who knows the potential impact that would have on a service member making a choice about whether he wants to participate or she wants to participate in a survey like this.
That is why I felt it’s important to gather with you and express to you in the strongest terms as I have thus far why we are discouraged by the fact this has been released and why we are advocating in the strongest terms possible that service members avail themselves of this opportunity and not be in any way influenced by the outside commentary about the survey.
All right. Thank you, guys, for gathering. I appreciate it. Thanks.
[END NOTE: After the briefing Mr. Morrell explained that "a facility adjustment may be as minor as adding shower curtains to currently open shower facilities, but there is absolutely no consideration being given to creating separate facilities for gay and lesbian service members."]