A former Reagan defense official and opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” expressed concern on Tuesday about the Pentagon study of the law potentially going in the wrong direction.
Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said he met recently with officials working on the study and said he didn’t think the questions they raised pertained to where he thought the study should be heading.
“Now, I get the impression — based upon looking outside and talking to people — that a lot of the people are not convinced that this needs to be repealed and really think it’s their mission to even examine this,” he said during a panel discussion on a new Center for American Progress report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Korb said officials on the working group were focused on how repeal could negatively affect the U.S. military as opposed to implementing an end to the law — as Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed earlier this year.
One person involved with the review, Korb said, wanted to look at the “impact of this on unit cohesion and readiness.”
In response, Korb the that issue has been already resolved in previous studies, noting the 1993 Rand Corp. study, which didn’t find detrimental impact to open service in the U.S. military, as well as studies of foreign militaries that have dropped their bans. Still, Korb said the official said he wanted to raise the issue again.
Korb said someone else involved with the study had concerns about the people in the places where the military handles recruitment thinking homosexual behavior “is immoral” and “going to cause problems.”
“So, I don’t get the impresssion that you got a group of people who said, ‘OK, the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] spoke, the secretary spoke and the president, so now we’re going to have a ‘can do’ attitude,” Korb said. “I do not get that.”
A former undersecretary of defense for manpower and logistics under President Reagan, Korb said from his own experience in the Pentagon he thinks change can be more complicated if the process is protracted.
He recalled how during the Reagan administration, he had to work on the issue of women in the military, and the Army wanted an extensive study on the matter.
“I said, ‘That’s great, you got one month and you better come back in and say you need more women,’” Korb said.
Korb urged proponents of repeal to keep pressure on the Pentagon to ensure that the study has the outcome that Gates set for the working group.
“I think we have to watch, and those of you who are interested in it, I think we have to make sure the pressure stays on,” Korb said.