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Servicemembers United response to Pentagon spokesperson

Servicemembers United response to Pentagon spokesperson

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Published by JoeSudbay
Servicemembers United responsed to Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell’s Criticism of the group’s stance on the biased DADT Survey
Servicemembers United responsed to Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell’s Criticism of the group’s stance on the biased DADT Survey

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Published by: JoeSudbay on Jul 14, 2010
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Response Memo
July 14, 2010 
 
Responses to Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell’s Criticism of Servicemembers United’s Stance on Biased DADT Survey
INTRODUCTION
On Wednesday, July 07, 2010, the Department of Defense sent out a survey to 400,000 active dutyand reserve service members about issues related to the impending repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’tTell” law. The survey was designed and administered by the research firm Westat in conjunction withthe Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”On Friday, July 09, 2010, Servicemembers United issued a press release to condemn the flaweddesign of this survey, including its question wording, bias-inducing content, and offensive assumptions.Later that afternoon, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell held a press conference in which he directlyaddressed Servicemembers United’s criticism of the survey and fielded numerous questions fromreporters about Servicemembers United’s assertions. Mr. Morrell went on to grant an exclusiveinterview on Monday to a progressive blog during which he tried to further dispel ServicemembersUnited’s criticism of the survey.Unfortunately, the Pentagon’s responses to Servicemembers United’s criticism of the DADT surveymirror the survey itself – flawed. What follows are line-by-line responses to Mr. Morrell’s criticism of Servicemembers United’s stance on the biased DADT survey.
SERVICEMEMBERS UNITED RESPONSES TO PENTAGON SPOKESMAN CRITICISMPENTAGON CLAIM: The survey was not intended for public consumption.
 
MR. MORRELL: “We did not intend for this survey to be shared in such a public fashion.” 
SU RESPONSE: It is simply implausible to suggest that a survey sent out to 400,000 people would notbe “shared in such a public fashion.” It is also implausible to suggest that the Comprehensive ReviewWorking Group did not anticipate this inevitability. In fact, Servicemembers United informed theComprehensive Review Working Group that we considered it our duty to try to obtain a copy of thesurvey and to make it available for public consumption after it was released. It would be irresponsibleto criticize aspects of the survey such as question wording and not cite the specific questions beingcriticized. This was inevitable, and it was surely anticipated.
PENTAGON CLAIM: It would be irresponsible to not survey the troops about privacy, family,and reenlistment concerns.
MR. MORRELL: “I think there are 10 in total that address those situational privacy scenarios. We think it would be irresponsible to conduct a survey that didn’t try to address these types of things.” 
SU RESPONSE: No one has suggested that the Comprehensive Review Working Group not delveinto these issues with troops. The problem is with the biased way in which the questions about these
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Response Memo
July 14, 2010 
 
issues were asked; the leading, inflammatory, and limited answer choices; and the forum for askingthese types of questions. Such inquiries would have been better left to the focus groups or to a smallsample of survey respondents. A scientific sampling of the force could have been achieved with a 99%confidence level and less than a 2% margin of error by surveying just under 4,200 troops. If theDefense Department wanted to survey 400,000 troops on such issues, it should have ensured that thequestions being asked about these issues were not patently offensive and biased with limited andleading answer choices.
PENTAGON CLAIM: The enormous sample size was necessary for the survey.
MR. MORRELL: “We would not be disseminating it to our forces in the numbers that we are unless webelieved it to be the best vehicle possible to get a scientific sample of the attitudes of the force.” 
SU RESPONSE: This suggestion is completely false. For a population size of of nearly 3 million(active duty plus reserve forces), the maximum number of survey participants that would have beenneeded “to get a scientific sample of the attitudes of the force” with a confidence level of 99% and amargin of error of less than 2% is just under 4,200. This would have also cost American taxpayerssignificantly less and would have been more in line with the Defense Secretary’s mission to cutexcessive defense costs.
PENTAGON CLAIM: The survey is not biased.
 
MR. MORRELL: “Absolutely — unequivocally, I reject it as nonsense. This is the work of an incredibly  professional survey organization.” MR. MORRELL: “I think only seven of the references use the term homosexual, and when they do usethe term homosexual, it is to elicit a yes or a no answer. It is never to elicit a subjective answer. We arewell aware that to some the word homosexual is a loaded term,” MR. MORRELL: (Question: Why isn’t there a question that relates to the impact that DADT dischargeshave had on current unit morale or cohesion?)
”  
I frankly don’t know. I’m sure there’s a good explanation for it, I don’t know. I’m not armed with that information.” 
SU RESPONSE: It is a well known fact that the use of the term “homosexual” in opinion pollingintroduces bias, which is why the term is almost always used by fervently anti-gay organizations andindividuals in their rhetoric in contrast to the more humanizing phrase “gays and lesbians.” Even Mr.Morrell admits to being aware that the term “homosexual” can be a “loaded term.” A February 2010CBS/New York Timespollasked respondents, “Do you favor or oppose homosexuals serving in themilitary?” While 59% of respondents favored service by “homosexuals,” that number jumped up to70% when the phrase “gays and lesbians” was substituted for “homosexuals.” Furthermore, thesection of the survey that is about service with gays and lesbians, and hypothetical service with opengays and lesbians, starts off with the use of the term “homosexual” multiple times.Also, many of the questions and answer choices are leading and inherently suggestive. If theComprehensive Review Working Group wanted to “address these types of things” with a much larger sample size than the focus groups and forums provided to see if the concerns expressed in thosesettings would also be expressed by others, as Mr. Morrell says, then the survey should have allowed
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Response Memo
July 14, 2010 
 
for open-ended responses to such questions in order to see how many times respondents took theinitiative to provide certain answers on their own rather than because they were prompted by one or two inflammatory and leading answer choices.Also, the omission of survey questions gauging the positive aspects of repeal will clearly bias the setof survey results in that the results will only paint a picture of the potential problems with a change inthe law instead of a more balanced picture of the potential problems and potential benefits. TheComprehensive Review Working Group cannot possibly judge the relative weight of reported potentialconcerns if they do not have similar data on the benefits perceived by the force that may naturallyoffset or counterbalance those concerns.Also, the explanation in the survey of what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is all about is incomplete and verymisleading. The survey tells respondents, “This law generally requires that a Service member shallbe separated if the member is found to have engaged in, or attempted to engage in, homosexual acts.The Department of Defense is now considering changes to this policy.” Separations for engaging in,or attempting to engage in, homosexual acts make up a very small percentage of “Don’t Ask, Don’tTell” discharges. Separations for homosexual admission, or simply saying that one is gay or lesbian,make up the overwhelming majority of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges, yet one would never knowthis by reading the brief summary of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy provided to survey respondents.Given the inflammatory nature of “homosexual acts” versus simply saying “I am gay,” as well as thefact that these “acts” may be violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, such a misleadingdescription of the policy will also inevitably induce bias within the survey responses.And lastly, contrary to Mr. Morrell’s suggestion, the fact that a “professional survey organization”created the survey does not make the survey’s content unbiased. In fact, the reverse is true – thecontent of the survey determines the character and aptitude of the survey creator. With respect to thissurvey, Westat falls flat.
PENTAGON CLAIM: The survey is not offensive.
MR. MORRELL: ““It was not in any way, in any way, not designed to be offensive to anyone.” 
SU RESPONSE: Just because the survey may not have been intentionally designed to be offensive,or thought to be offensive by its designers, does not mean that the final product is not offensive. Thissurvey is highly offensive to many gay and lesbian troops who are risking their lives on foreign soil thisvery minute. It is highly offensive to many gay and lesbian veterans who have sacrificed life and limb inservice to this country. And it is highly offensive to many heterosexual Americans and non-veteranswho thought that the Comprehensive Review Working Group would guard against a biased andoffensive survey about a minority group that is going out to such a large number of servicemembers.Mr. Morrell, presumably a straight male, is not fit to judge what is offensive to a minority group of whichhe is not a part. This is precisely why Servicemembers United requested multiple times to be allowedto confidentially review the survey questions and provide feedback on what might be consideredoffensive to our own community.And lastly, could Mr. Morrell honestly say that the substitution of other minority groups in this surveywould not offend members of those groups? Would the Department of Defense ever ask 400,000servicemembers if they feel that they might need to “discuss how we expect each other to behave and
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