What would be the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Exploring the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the law barring openly gay soldiers from serving in the military, was passed in 1993. On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed legislation that led to its repeal.

Prior to the repeal, the Department of Defense (DoD) studied the impact of repealing DADT on military recruitment, retention, effectiveness, and unit cohesion.

DoD contracted with Westat to assess the perceptions of military personnel and their spouses concerning recruitment, retention, effectiveness, and unit cohesion.


Evaluation activities included collecting and analyzing data on DADT from several sources

  • Surveys – We administered a web-based survey of 400,000 military personnel and a paper survey of 150,000 spouses.
  • Town hall meetings – Our staff served as notetakers for 79 town hall meetings that military personnel facilitated at stateside military bases as well as overseas.
  • Focus groups – We moderated 133 focus groups with military members stationed worldwide.
  • Confidential communications – We established a confidential website to carry out anonymous interviews with military members, including gay and lesbian members.

We summarized and analyzed the data we collected and produced a final report of findings to the DoD in October 2010.


Findings from this comprehensive review revealed that the risk of repealing DADT to overall military effectiveness was low.

A majority of service members expressed that repealing DADT would have either no effect or an equally positive and negative effect on their unit.

Findings from the review provided DoD with information used to support the repeal of the DADT legislation.


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