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Pentagon airs criticism of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
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Pentagon airs criticism of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

An article in the Pentagon's top scholarly journal, Joint Force Quarterly, calls for lifting the ban on Gays serving openly in the armed forces. The author, Air Force Colonel Om Prakash, argues that the military is essentially forcing an estimated 65,000 Gay and Lesbian service members to lead dishonest lives in an organization that emphasizes integrity as an essential tenet.

The article is set to appear in this month's issue of Joint Force Quarterly, which is published for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Although the reviews do not necessarily reflect those of Pentagon leaders, the appearance of such an article in a publication known as the Joint Chiefs' "flagship" security studies journal suggests that the top brass now welcome debate in the military over repealing the 1993 law.

Colonel Prakash studied the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy for months while a student at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., and concludes that having openly Gay troops in the ranks will not hurt combat readiness.

"After a careful examination, there is no specific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly," writes Colonel Prakash, who currently works in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M, Gates. "Based on research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban."

DADT says that Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual servicemembers must keep their sexual orientation a secret. More than 12,500 troops have been discharged under DADT since its establishment 16 years ago.

Prakash argues that the law "has been costly both in personnel and treasure." He acknowledges that allowing Gays to serve openly may cause some disruption in the ranks - including harassment and some violence - but he believes the disruptions would be manageable and that the military would quickly accept the change.

The most striking counter to DADT is that Prakash says a more equitable policy would actually strengthen unit cohesion. "No doubt there will be cases where units will become dysfunctional, just as there are today among heterosexual leaders," Prakash writes. "Intervention will be required; such units must be dealt with just as they are today - in a prompt and constructive fashion."

Ensuring a smooth transition, Prakash said, will require education and leadership, but the record suggests that there will be no major fallout.

"There was no mass exodus of heterosexuals, and there was no mass 'coming out' of homosexuals," he said, citing examples of other militaries, such as Israel and the United Kingdom, that allows Gays to serve openly.

At the core of his argument, Prakash is most concerned with the military forcing thousands of men and women to live a lie while serving their country, which he says, "directly undercuts the very fabric of their profession."

"The law also forces unusual personal compromises wholly inconsistent with a core military value - integrity," he writes. "Several homosexuals interviewed were in tears as they described the enormous personal compromise in integrity they had been making, and the pain felt in serving an organization they wholly believed in, yet that did not accept them."

Prakash said, "In an attempt to allow homosexual service members to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity that conflicts with the American creed of 'equality for all,' places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve."

The appearance of the article is likely to be applauded by Gay advocates who are calling for an appeal of the law. While on the campaign trail, President Obama promised to repeal DADT. Since he took office, nearly 400 service members have been discharged under the policy.

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