The Pentagons Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) on the issue of homosexuality in the military, which issued its report yesterday, was extremely selective in the way it crunched the numbers when reporting the results of a survey of Service members. By following the CRWGs lead, the media has missed the biggest storythe fact that more Service members expect negative consequences than positive consequences if the current law is overturned, according to virtually every question that was asked.

You would not know that from the way the findings were reported. Speaking of the possibility of overturning the 1993 law which codified the militarys longstanding ban on open homosexuality in the ranks, they said

70% of Service members predicted it [repeal] would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

Here is the question on which the 70 percent figure is based:

If Dont Ask, Dont Tell is repealed and you are working with a Service member in your immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, how, if at all, would it affect how service members in your immediate unit work together to get the job done? (this is a measure of what they refer to as task cohesion).

The choices for response were:

1) Positively or Very Positively

2) Equally positively and negatively

3) No effect

4) Negatively or Very Negatively

The responses were:

1) Positively or Very Positively: 18.4%

2) Equally positively and negatively: 32.1%

3) No effect: 19.9%

4) Negatively or Very Negatively: 29.6%

The CRWG arrived at the much-repeated 70% figure by adding together the first three categories.

However, the homosexual activists who are pushing for repeal do not argue that there would be equally positive and negative effects. They argue that there would be no negative effects whatsoever, or at least that the positive effects would overwhelmingly outnumber the negative. Therefore, contrary to the way the CRWG and the media have presented it, the equally positive and negative answer should not be taken as supporting the case for overturning current law.

In fact, only answers 1 and 3 (positive or no effect) should be considered supportive of the case that is usually made for repeal. Answers 2 and 4 both indicate that repeal would have negative consequences. Viewed this way, we can argue that

  • 62% of Service members predicted at least some negative effects from repeal, while only 38% predicted only positive or no effects.

However, I would go further and argue that the no effect response does not support the case for repeal, either. I realize that homosexual activists appeal to concepts like justice and equality to argue that if there is no effect, then the law should be changed. But there is no constitutional right to serve in the military, and the exclusion law is fundamentally based on behavior, not identity, so justice and equality are not at stake here.

The only legitimate argument for changing the status quo is if the change would improve the effectiveness of the military as a fighting force. And here, the results of the survey are dramatically clearthose who foresee a negative consequence from repeal outnumber those who foresee a positive consequence on virtually every question. (FRCs analysis of the report is ongoing, but this statement is true of all 53 questions featuring some negative/positive breakdown that are described in Chapter VII of the CRWG report.)

Furthermore, in many cases the ratios of Negative or Very Negative responses to Positive or Very Positive ones were very dramatic. For example, repeal was:

  • More than four times more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on your willingness to recommend to a family member or close friend that he or she join the military (27.3% negative to 6.3% positive).

  • More than six times more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on your military career plans (i.e., intentions to remain in the military)23.7% negative to 3.5% positive.

  • Nearly six times more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on your level of morale (27.9% negative to 4.8% positive).

The report makes much of the fact that those who say they are already working with a Service member in your immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian give more positive responses. However, it is important to note that even among this group, negative responses outnumber positive ones on every question.

For example, even those currently serving with a gay or lesbian colleague say repeal is:

  • Nearly two and a half (2.48) times more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on your immediate units effectiveness at completing its mission in a field environment or out at sea (37.5% to 15.1%).

  • More than two and a half times more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on your units ability to train well together (26.5% to 10.0%).

To take these surveys as supporting the case for overturning the law is a grave misreading of their findings.