DOD News Briefing with General Counsel Johnson and Gen. Ham from the Pentagon
(DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham are co-chairs of the Comprehensive Review Working Group that developed the report which can be found at http://www.defense.gov/dadt) .
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. I believe General Ham is going to begin with his remarks, and then I'll follow up.
GEN. HAM: Hi, good afternoon. It's been a long time since I've been on this podium, and I don't miss it at all.
As Secretary Gates indicated, on March 2nd of this year he gave Mr. Johnson and I a task to review the issues related to repeal of Section 654 of Title X of the U.S. Code, the law commonly referred to as "don't ask, don't tell."
It's an important historical note, I think, that today being the 30th of November is in fact 17 years to the day when President Clinton signed into law the fiscal year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act, which included "don't ask, don't tell," the matter we're talking about today.
Secretary Gates gave us two tasks, two primary tasks; first, to assess the impact of repeal on military effectiveness, military readiness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and importantly on family readiness.
Secondly, he told us to recommend appropriate changes to regulations, policies and guidance in the event of repeal. Additionally, we were to develop a plan of action to support implementation of repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" should such repeal occur. As we begin our work, Secretary Gates directed that we thoroughly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question. And he told us in written guidance and told us verbally to systematically engage the force.
With that guidance over the last nine months, we solicited the views of 400,000 servicemembers, active, National Guard and reserve, which elicited over 115,000 responses. We solicited the views of 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component servicemembers, receiving over 44,000 replies. We received over 72,000 comments from servicemembers and their families on a specifically designed online inbox. We conducted 95 face-to-face meetings at 51 different bases around the world, interacting in that -- in that effort with over 24,000 servicemembers, Mr. Johnson and I participating personally in many of those.
We held 140 demographically selected focus groups. An example, nine to 12 junior enlisted, male, combat arms; nine to 12 mid-grade non- commissioned officer, females.
We engaged the service academies, their staffs, faculties, cadets and midshipmen.
We, as directed, included RAND's 2010 update to their 1993 study.
We met with a number of veterans groups, service organizations, and groups both for and against the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
And one of the more difficult tasks, through a non-DOD-managed confidential communication mechanism, and through RAND's work, reached out to currently serving gay and lesbian servicemembers.
In all, we believe this to have been the largest, most comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the Department of Defense has ever undertaken.
Based on all that we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer, the risk of repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" to overall military effectiveness is low. And as the secretary mentioned, it is important to note that that assessment is based upon the prompt implementation of the recommendations.
We do conclude that while a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" will likely in the short term bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread nor long-lasting, and we believe it can be adequately addressed by the recommendations we offer.
In the longer term, with a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect, we are convinced that the U.S. military can adjust and accommodate this change, just as it has others in history.
As the secretary and the chairman mentioned, to be sure, the survey results reveal a significant minority, around 30 percent overall, and 40 (percent) to 60 percent in the Marine Corps and in various combat arms specialties, who predict in some form and to some degree negative views or concerns about the impact of a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." And clearly any personnel policy change for which a group that size predicts negative consequences must be approached with caution. However, there are a number of other factors that still lead us to conclude that the risk of repeal to overall military effectiveness is low.
As one example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92 percent say that their units' ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor. In response to the same question, in the Army combat arms units, the percentage was 89 percent, or 3 percent lower; and 84 percent for Marine Corps combat arms units, or 8 percent lower -- but still all very high percentages. And we heard much the same as we talked to the force.
Thus our survey results reflecting actual experience, actual experience or other engagements, and the lessons of history lead us to conclude that while the risks of repeal within warfighting units, while certainly higher than the force generally, remain within acceptable levels, again, importantly, when coupled with our recommendations for implementation.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you. General Ham has explained the comprehensive process we undertook to get where we are to today in our basic assessment. In support of our basic assessment were a number of things that are explained in detail in our 150-page report.
Here are a few.
To begin with, there are the results of the servicemembers surveyed. It was one of the largest non-Census surveys every conducted of the U.S. military. We believe the results of the survey are best represented by the answers to three questions.
First, when asked about how having a servicemember in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit's ability to, quote, "work together to get the job done," end quote, 70 percent of servicemembers predicted it would have a positive, mixed or no effect.
Second, when asked, quote, "In your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual," end quote, 69 percent of servicemembers reported that they already had.
Third, as General Ham mentioned, when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92 percent stated that the unit's ability to work together was, quote, "very good, good, or neither good nor poor."
The results of the spouse survey are consistent. When asked whether repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" would affect their preference for their husband or wife's future plans to stay in the military, 74 percent said repeal would have no effect.
The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today's U.S. military, and most servicemembers recognize this.
Further, in the course of our assessment, it became apparent to us that aside from the moral and religious objections to homosexuality, much of the concern about, quote, "openly," end quote, gay servicemembers is driven by misperceptions and stereotypes about what that would mean.
In today's civilian society, where there is no law that requires gay men and lesbians to conceal their sexual orientation in order to keep their job, most gay men and lesbians still tend to be discreet about their personal lives and guarded about the people with whom they share information about their sexual orientation. We believe that, in the military environment, this would be true even more so. This discretion would occur for reasons having nothing to do with the state of the law, but everything to do with a desire to fit in, coexist and succeed in the military environment.
In communications with gay and lesbian current and former servicemembers, we heard repeatedly a patriotic desire to serve and defend the nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else. Most said they did not desire special treatment to use the military for social experimentation or to advance a social agenda. Some of those separated under "don't ask, don't tell" would welcome the opportunity to rejoin the military if permitted to do so. From them, we heard expressed many of the same values that we heard over and over again from servicemembers at large: love of country, honor, respect, integrity, and service over self. We simply cannot square the reality of these people with the perceptions about, quote, "open," end quote, service.
Based on our work, we are convinced that the U.S. military can make this change, even during this time of war. However, our assessment depends upon the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer in the report. Here are several of them.
First, successful implementation of repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," as the secretary stated, will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message, and proactive education. We must equip commanders in the field with the education and training tools to educate the force on what is expected of them in a post-repeal environment.
An underlying theme should be fair and equal treatment of all servicemembers, regardless of sexual orientation. They key message is this. If repeal comes, gay and lesbian servicemembers must be treated the same as everyone else.
Second, in the course of our review, we heard a large number of servicemembers raise religious and moral objections to homosexuality, or to serving alongside someone who was gay. In the event of repeal, we should make clear that servicemembers are not expected to change their personal religious views or moral beliefs about homosexuality.
Servicemembers are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect consistent with the core values that already exist within each service. These concepts are not new for the military community, as people of sharply different moral views and religious convictions already coexist, work, live and fight together on a daily basis.
Third, throughout our engagement with the force, we heard many concerns expressed by servicemembers about possible inappropriate conduct that might take place in the event of repeal. Many of these concerns were about conduct that is already regulated in the military regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons involved. We believe that it is not necessary to establish an extensive set of new or revised standards of conduct in the event of repeal. In the event of repeal, we do recommend, however, that the Department of Defense issue guidance that all standards of conduct apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation.
Fourth, we address the subject of benefits for those in same-sex relationships.
We recommend that, for the time being, all servicemembers not in a federally recognized marriage should be treated as single for purposes of benefits eligibility. We also recommend that the Department of Defense study ways to reshape additional benefits into the member- designated category, provided it makes sense from a -- from a policy, fiscal and feasibility standpoint.
Fifth, in the event of repeal, any berthing or billeting assignments, or the designation of separate bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation, should be prohibited. However, commanders should retain the authority to alter berthing or billeting assignments, or accommodate privacy concerns, on an individualized, case-by-case basis.
Sixth, in the event of repeal, we recommend that servicemembers who have previously separated under "don't ask, don't tell" be permitted to apply for reentry into the military pursuant to the same criteria as others who seek reentry.
General Ham and I are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. We do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in this law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our dedicated servicemen and -women to adapt to such change and unite to defend the nation when called upon to do so.
MODERATOR: Okay. I'll moderate questions, but go ahead and direct your questions to either Mr. Johnson or General Ham, either/or or both.
Q: Having gone through this process, do you have an opinion or recommendation about how long this sort of interim period should last? If Congress were to act fairly quickly to lift the ban, how long is it reasonable to expect that the military would need before it's ready to go the whole distance?
GEN HAM: The support plan for implementation envisions a three-phased approach: a pre-repeal phase, which would begin at the direction of the secretary of Defense, to start doing the assessment of regulations, policies, other guidance that exists at the service level and department level; an implementation phase that would begin, at least under the current legislative construct, with passage of legislation that would lead to repeal, would continue on through, then, the effective date of repeal sometime into the future; and then a sustainment phase.
We did not pin a specific time frame to those phases because the -- because the future is somewhat uncertain. We don't know, you know, will the legislation that is pending, will that be the legislation that is passed or will there be some other -- some other means that repeal comes about, or perhaps repeal does not come about. So an uncertain time frame. But the phases, I think, are important for us.
MR JOHNSON: And I think the answer to your question is more for the personnel and readiness community. If we were talking about the current form of legislation that's pending in Congress right now, which has contemplated this process before certification is delivered, I think the answer would be not fast, but not drawn out or protracted either. I think that it could become counterproductive for unit cohesion, good order and discipline if this process were drawn out over an extended period of time. But the current legislation contemplates that before the president, the chairman and the secretary deliver that certification to the Congress, the Department of Defense will have written new policies and regulations to put in place in a post-repeal environment.
The secretary has made very clear that before he and the chairman and the president sign the certification, he'd want to know that we have that post-repeal architecture in place and that we have at least begun and accomplished as much as possible some of that education and training that we are recommending.
Q: Two questions. You must have an idea whether it's months or years that we're talking about here. So if you could just tell us whether it's months or years.
And, General Ham, one of the congressmen who heard your briefing on the Hill said that you had told them that you were personally opposed to homosexuality. Is that true? And, if so, why?
GEN. HAM: Well, one of the principles -- one of our guiding principles for our group was that you check your personal views at the door. It's not helpful for members of the working group to have personal views intrude into the -- into the conversation. So we didn't discuss personal views within our group.
I am, as all senior military officials are, obliged if asked by a member of Congress before a duly-constituted committee to offer my personal opinion. And in that setting, I would do that.
Q: And would you?
GEN. HAM: And -- I will comply with the requirements of my appointment.
MR. JOHNSON: I got to know General Ham in February when we got this assignment. And what General Ham said was our directive about checking your personal views at the door is absolutely true, such that today was the first time I heard him give any type of personal view on this issue, when asked by a member of Congress.
Q: And could you narrow it down to months or years?
GEN. HAM: Like I said, not fast, but not drawn out, either. And it's a question more for the personnel and readiness community.
MODERATOR: Dan, a quick follow-up on that.
Q: You didn't come up with a plan of how long it would take to do the education that you -- you didn't come up with a -- you didn't come up with any kind of estimate of how long it would take to train the people according to what you think they need to be trained for?
GEN. HAM: We've laid out what we think would be necessary in terms of education and training, talking points, where the emphasis should be. How long that would take, it depends a lot on emphasis, the level of resources that's devoted to the task. There are many tasks within the Department of Defense that, depending upon the number of people and the level of resources you devote to it, can happen in one time period or with a different level of resources can happen in a different time period. So much of that will depend on how we staff this and the level of resources we devote to it.
And until such time as the regulations, policies and guidance are developed, you can't then determine how long it will take to train and educate the force on policies that we don't -- we don't know what they are just yet. So those decisions must precede any determination of length of training and education.
Q: Yeah, two questions. One, would the current policy of separating servicmembers who are found to be homosexual continue to apply even if Congress passed a law repealing -- repealing law and the implementation of the plan was put into effect?
And second, for General Ham, you're obviously an experienced combat leader. How deep-seated do you think the resistance would be among combat units to integration here?
MR. JOHNSON: Let me take the first question. Under the current version of the legislation that is pending, 10 USC 654 remains in effect unless and until the certification is delivered to the Congress. And then 60 days after that, repeal would become effective. So 654 would remain in effect until that happens.
Q: Does that make any sense? I mean, if we're talking a year for this implementation plan to be put into place, you'd be separating people who could then turn around and reapply to get back into the military, you know, within a year.
It makes -- doesn't seem to make sense. Plus, I would add that there have been no separations since the change in the policy a few months ago that brought it up to a higher level. So there does seem to be a sort of recognition that this is not exactly working the way it used to work.
MR. JOHNSON: The form of the legislation pending is what it is, and it's not part of our mandate to assess that or offer a view on it.
GEN. HAM: There are uncertainties in my life. Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and that is that the armed forces of the United States follow the law, and the law today is what it is. And if the law is going to change, when that law changes, the armed forces of the United States, with full energy and commitment, will follow that law.
MODERATOR: Right here.
Q: Yes. As David mentioned, there hasn't been a discharge under "don't ask, don't tell" for at least 40 days. Can you tell us why there has been no discharge, and under what circumstances discharges might resume in the Department of Defense if nothing happens in the legislature?
MR. JOHNSON: I can't tell you why. I know that, in October, we elevated the separation authority to the service secretaries in consultation with Dr. Stanley and myself. And I have not had the opportunity at this point to coordinate on a separation. That, for all I know, could change in a couple of days, depending on what's in the pipeline.
Q: If I could ask both of you, what was the most surprising thing that you came across during the conduct of nine months?
MR. JOHNSON: I would say two things.
One, I actually -- and this is not true of General Ham -- I actually was a little nervous about presiding at these large group sessions of 100 to 300 servicemembers on this very emotional topic about which virtually everyone has an opinion.
And I was -- I won't say surprised, but extremely gratified and pleased that the discussions we had with servicemembers were remarkably frank and -- but civil and professional at all times.
And we would have 90-minute sessions or hour-long sessions. People were not shy about raising their hands. And if 10 people got to ask questions, 30 people had their hands up. And the discussion was very frank across the spectrum, but it was at all times very, very civil and very professional.
And I guess the other thing I was somewhat surprised about is that although the survey results reveal somewhat of a distinction in age groups and age brackets, that the younger officers were more -- less negative about the effects, we didn't see the huge generational gap that I think both of us going into this thought we would see. The -- in a large group session, when a young servicemember stood up, I would not predict -- I could not predict what that servicemember's view of this issue was going to be. The -- I think the exception to that was at the academies. The cadets and midshipmen there were all pretty much of the view -- we're talking about 19, 20, 21 years old that -- I don't want to generalize too much, but they were by and large of the view that, what's the big deal?
GEN. HAM: Mr. Johnson understates his nervousness about these large group sessions -- (laughter) -- that -- but we did. And we heard very impassioned, very well --
MR. JOHNSON: I had an officer in uniform next to me at all times.
GEN. HAM: I was trying to -- very well-informed, very impassioned discussion points by -- across the spectrum on this particular issue. But I, too, even having been a soldier for a long time, I was -- I was struck by the civility that servicemembers, even with widely differing opinions, the way that they treated one another. And that was -- that was -- that was very reassuring to see that.
Q: To both of you. You say that there was a lot of objections on religious grounds among the 30 percent or the 40 percent to 50 percent among some units. Would you say that was the -- that was the basis of the majority of the objections, of that 30 percent? Was it religious grounds, or could you quantify that?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, the only way to address the reasons for someone's views would be anecdotally through what we heard in the large group sessions, not through this survey. I would say, based on what I saw and heard -- and between the two of us I think we came in contact, face to face, with over 10,000 servicemembers -- I would say that, as people put it to us, most of the concern was about open service, open -- gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military. There were definitely concerns expressed on moral and religious grounds, but most of the concerns expressed were concerns about serving alongside someone who was -- was an open gay or lesbian.
Q: That seems -- based on the religious beliefs of the servicemember.
MR. JOHNSON: No, it was just based on, what will my life be like serving in a unit with someone who was openly gay?
That was most often what we heard from those who had concerns about repealing the policy.
GEN HAM: But the religious, moral aspect of this is very, very important. It became clear -- very clear early on as we met with the force that this was a significant issue.
To that end, we assured we had chaplains on our -- on our working group to help advise us. We spent a lot of time reaching out to chaplains to better understand this religious issue. We met with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, which I think, as many of you know, is comprised of the service chiefs of chaplains who advise the secretary of Defense on religious matters. We reached out to the endorsing agents, those organizations who sponsor and endorse men and women to come serve in the military as chaplains. There are 202 of them, I believe, at least when we were -- when were doing this. We reached out to them and asked, you know, what would be the impact? If this law changes, for example, would you withdraw your endorsement?
And of those that responded, none indicated that they would. But there was very clearly a concern out there by chaplains, by endorsing agents and by servicemembers that they would somehow be treated adversely if they held or espoused religious views that were contrary to the -- to the -- to the government's view if the -- if the law is repealed.
And so a very important part of our recommendation is that we have to make sure that people understand that, first of all, chaplains' First Amendment rights, I would say, their requirement to minister according to their denominational practice must be protected, even in an post-repeal era where their personal -- their denominational views might differ with the government.
We've been doing that for 235 years. We know how to do this. And our chaplains are well-practiced at that.
And the same for servicemembers. Our recommendation focuses on changing behaviors, of respect for one another, respect for other servicemembers, even those whose beliefs are different than your own, rather than changing attitudes.
Q: Follow on that?
Q: Based on what you heard, do you predict that there will be people who feel so strongly on moral or religious grounds that this ban should not be lifted that they would either feel that they must resign or make some sort of large point of principle of it? And would you actually advise someone in that position to resign?
GEN. HAM: I think if the law is repealed that it is certainly likely that some servicemembers will come to the position that says, I just -- I cannot abide by this. There are likely to be some chaplains who say, I just cannot reconcile my denominational religious beliefs with this position, and their endorsing agent may withdraw their endorsement. That chaplain may leave the force.
We do not believe and we do not recommend that a servicemember simply by stating, you know, I -- homosexuality is contrary to my beliefs or my religious views or what have you, should -- that person should then be eligible for separation. But, having said that, there -- if the servicemember is unable to reconcile his or herself and their conduct and they become disruptive in the force, leaders, commanders have a full range of authority that could ultimately lead to that servicemember being separated.
We don't believe that should be the first course of action, but that remedy is available today under current authorities.
MR. JOHNSON: I'd like to add to that that one of the points we make in the report is that surveys that ask for predictions of future behavior most often are based on attitudes. And predictions and attitudes are -- there's data out there that tells us that they are poor predictors of actual behavior once the person has to make a choice.
That is corroborated by the experience, as reflected in the report, of our foreign allies, when they dealt with this issue, changes in policies. There were surveys done of foreign militaries where the predictions were dire, that the opposition was as high as 70, 80 percent. There are limited surveys that were conducted in the '40s of the force on the issue of racial integration, which showed very high levels of opposition. And so the point is that predictions of what you will do if something happens are very often poor indicators of what the actual behavior will be.
Which is why, by the way, the survey spends a fair amount of time asking servicemembers about their actual past experiences in units with people they believed to be gay or lesbian.
Q: Two questions on some of the recommendations you made. Assuming that the repeal goes through and that your plan is put in place as you've drafted it, would a gay couple, if one -- if the gay servicemember was hurt or killed, would they have the same visitation rights, death benefits as a -- as a heterosexual married couple?
Also, you said that there would be no separate bathrooms or facilities, but that individual commanders would have some discretion, and I don't understand quite what that would mean.
And what would be the circumstances under which a commander could mandate or put in place separate bathrooms, separate barracks if the law itself says that shouldn't happen?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, the -- as the report makes clear, we are recommending that at a unit level or a base level or what have you, that a policy setting up separate bathroom or building or barracks arrangements for gays and lesbians should be prohibited. It's also impossible to administer because people are not going to self-identify for these purposes.
However, we're noting that commanders should retain the discretion on an individualized case-by-case basis to address concerns, particular concerns about privacy. And this is discretion they have right now. If a servicemember has a particular concern about an issue with privacy or can't get along with someone with whom he's been assigned a room, a commander has discretion to deal with that. He doesn't have to force two people to live together if they just simply can't live together. So it should be, as it is now, dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But we're strongly recommending against a policy of separate facilities.
Q: And on the benefits issue.
GEN. HAM: Yeah, with regard to the hospital visits and death gratuities and the like, if the law is repealed, then we believe that are a number of benefits to which servicemembers are entitled that are servicemember-designated. And we believe that the examples that you offer would likely fall into that category. So someone -- next of kin notification, the person that -- to whom you identify as a beneficiary for your servicemember's group life insurance, those kinds of categories, we think, would be the types of benefits that could move into this servicemember-designated category.
Q: Just one very quick follow-up. You mentioned the discretion would be for the commander. Let's assume from the other point of view, if you have an openly gay servicemember who feels like their safety is at risk, is there any mechanism as you forsee it where that servicemember could say, for my own protection, my own safety, I need to live by myself or I want to live by myself?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I hesitate to answer hypotheticals. It depends very much on the circumstance, but I would not prohibit a commander from addressing a situation like that if any servicemember had a well- founded fear for his own physical safety for some reason. But, you know, it depends, obviously, on the circumstances.
Q: This kind of goes to my question of going back to predictions versus realities. You know, you have said that if -- said there would be a low risk of disruption in the force if there was prompt) implementation of the plan, and the secretary said that the risk would be higher if it came, you know, immediately from the courts. What I haven't heard yet is -- what exactly are the fears that would happen? The risks of what happening? Are we talking about the missions not being accomplished, the benefits not being paid, or are we really talking about violence towards troops by other troops? Is that really the concern at issue?
And if that is the issue, whether even the low end of risk, how does that gel with what you just said, that all these predictors usually, historically, turn out not to be true?
GEN. HAM: Let me take on the violence issue, because this would -- this would appear, but infrequently, in our conversations with the force. The United States armed forces are a disciplined force. That doesn't mean that there aren't some bad actors occasionally who engage in misconduct, and we do have assaults and what have you. But we know how to deal with that.
And so the focus is on respect for a fellow servicemember, just as it is today, if that servicemember's beliefs are different than your own.
So we have mechanisms in place to deter and certainly to respond to any violence that might occur. But clearly the message from leadership will be this is unacceptable, it is criminal behavior, and we have the means of dealing with that.
Q: So could I just follow up? Is that what you're concerned about when you talk about disruption? Just to follow on Kevin's question, specifically, when you talk about disruptions, is that what you mean? Violence, hate crimes, that kind of thing, is that the main concern here? Or people refusing to cooperate?
MR. JOHNSON: I mean, an example of disruption -- Elizabeth, the answer is no, we're not -- we're not concerned about, you know, rampant violence. And that's not what we mean by disruption. What we mean by disruption is a little bit of what you saw in October over that eight-day period where on Monday there was a law, "don't ask, don't tell." On Tuesday, we were enjoined from enforcing it. Eight days later, an administrative stay was put in place where the law was -- where the law was back in place. Then we faced another possibility that the 9th Circuit could take the stay off.
So the light switch was going on and off multiple times over the matter of days, and we had to keep sending communications out to the entire United States military about whether or not this policy can and should be enforced at recruitment center and elsewhere. And it's distracting, it's confusing. And so if repeal is to occur -- and this was the secretary's point -- it should occur in an orderly way with the forces educated such that we can create an environment in which gays and lesbians post-repeal can be most readily accepted.
Q: I'm sorry to be a pain here, but in the report you say the disruption that would occur after -- that might occur after repeal. You weren't talking about disruption back and forth in the courts. You say specifically in the executive summary that there might be some short-term disruption, but in the long term it's going to be mitigated by effective leadership. So I'm just asking one last time, what do you mean by disruption?
GEN. HAM: I think -- again, whenever -- if we're going to change a policy that has the far-reaching impact that this one would, the type of -- the type of disruption that in my mind that would -- that would follow a repeal -- which I believe can be mitigated through good leadership and through education and training, but it's still going to occur -- when a servicemember in a unit who chooses to disclose his or her sexual orientation, some members are -- some of their fellow servicemembers in that unit are going to react differently to that -- to that disclosure of sexual orientation. There's going to be, you know, the disruption that occurs as we just talked about.
I don't want to share a berthing accommodation. I don't want to share a barracks room with a -- with a gay or lesbian servicemember. It's those kinds of disruption that I -- that I think are likely to occur in the immediate aftermath of repeal, should it occur.
But I believe -- and again, it's important to acknowledge that I'm not just a co-chair, I'm a commander. And so I -- so if this law is repealed, I have to do what's in that report. So that was on my mind all the time as we -- as we went through this.
Q: Any sense of why the Marine Corps seems to be so resistant to repeal? Is it -- they were the largest percentage, it looked like, in terms of expressing a negative view.
Any conclusions jump out of you -- jump out at you?
GEN. HAM: Yes. I think generally -- and it's not true for all specialties, but generally the Marine Corps respondents indicated a lower percentage who had actual experience of serving in a unit alongside someone who was gay or lesbian. And so the point that Mr. Johnson made about the perceived effect of "open service," for a lack of a better term, was somewhat problematic.
We did find, for example, in Marine Corps and Army combat arms units who had -- in combat environments when those were -- when they were asked about their experience with gay servicemembers in their unit reported actually quite favorably on the unit's performance. So I think -- again, I think it's a largely -- there is a differential in actual experience.
Q: We had Admiral -- General Conway was up here a few months ago. And he was asked a question. And his response was something along the lines of well we recruit a real macho guy or woman.
Did you come across that in terms of the Marines -- there's a machismo there with Marines who viscerally and instinctively don't like the idea of serving near a gay person?
GEN. HAM: No. I mean, I -- I mean, as many of you know, you know, I love General Conway and worked with him and for him. And clearly he's got a tremendous amount of experience. But in our survey results, that wasn't -- it wasn't a question that we asked, because that did not necessarily reveal itself.
Q: (Off mike) -- following up on that, given the fact the survey seems to show different levels of support in different services, do you all envision any place for the DOD to leave some flexibility for the services to develop certain policies and guidance on their own, and to ultimately have some variance in the way individual services handle some of these policy matters?
Or would you -- do you see things being very consistent across the board?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, there's a fair amount of -- there are a number of recommendations where we leave it to the services to devise their own policies, with some overarching themes and suggestions about how to bring that about. We're not recommending here that there be any sort of phased-in approach where a certain service does it at a certain pace and a certain service does it at another pace. And so we're not making a recommendation one way or another on that.
Q: Can you point to anything that you would ultimately see as being a place where Air Force might do it this way and Army might do it this way?
MR. JOHNSON: On the issue of member-designated benefits, for example, we say that the services should look at whether certain types of benefits that could be extended to same-sex partners can be redesignated as member-designated benefits. In other words, a servicemember can designate whoever he wants, whether it's a same-sex partner or -- you know, Aunt Jenny or my long-lost brother or my first-grade teacher. If it makes sense from a fiscal policy and feasibility point of view to redesignate it that way, with this issue in mind, then we would encourage the services to do that.
So it's quite possible to me that Army could do it one way, Air Force could do it another.
GEN. HAM: We tried to craft the support plan for implementation in a manner that was respective -- respectful of service cultures, recognizing that each service trains and educates a little bit differently.
So we tried to provide an architecture for that training and education to occur, but allow the services then to flesh out the details of exactly how they would to that consistent with their own methodology and their own service cultures.
Q: I'm sorry. General Ham and Mr. Johnson, in terms of a follow-up on the Marine Corps issue, one of the comments by Admiral Mullen today was that the working group's finding was that one of the most -- that the most important part of implementation of repeal would be leadership.
Is there any message that the working group found, or that either of you individually take from the fact that some of the strongest comments against repeal have come from the leaders of the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps is the area where the survey has found the least receptive response to open military service?
MR. JOHNSON: I drew a lot of significance from the new commandant's statement that if repeal occurs, we will step up and do it smartly. And I believe that.
MODERATOR: Okay. The last question.
Q: Do you recommend any changes to the UCMJ as a result of -- (inaudible)?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, there are -- there are several recommendations in the report for changes to the UCMJ. One is to remove from the UCMJ the prosecutions for consensual sodomy. That is something that we should look at irrespective of what the Congress does with "don't ask, don't tell" in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence versus Texas. And there's also a recommendation for changing the definition of adultery in the manual for courts martial.
It's in the report.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you all for your time.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.