Early reports on the Pentagon's survey of the troops on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were nothing but roses for repeal supporters, but the details of the survey complicate that narrative somewhat. While only 20% of troops who have never been deployed to a combat zone say that repeal of DADT would "very negatively" or "negatively" affect their "immediate unit's effectiveness at completing its mission," more than 44% of combat troops say repeal would have a negative impact on unit effectiveness:
An exception to the pattern was the response of Service members deployed to a combat zone now or in the past to the circumstance of being “in a field environment or out to sea.” Among all Service members in this group, 44.3% (and 59.4% of Marines—see Q71a in Appendix E) said performance would be “very negatively/negatively” affected in this situation. Of note, among all survey items related to the review’s major subject areas, this item had the highest percentage of Service members reporting negative perceptions about the impact of a repeal.
Update: The report also says that "67% of those in Marine combat arms units"--i.e. infantry, artillery, armor--"predict working alongside a gay man or lesbian will have a negative effect on their unit’s effectiveness in completing its mission 'in a field environment or out at sea.'"
About 11% of all combat troops surveyed said repeal would "positively" or "very positively" affect performance, while 19% said repeal would have "no effect." Another 26% of combat troops surveyed said repeal's affect wold be "equally as positively as negatively." These troops--who see both negative and positive effects of repeal--are lumped together with those who believe it will have "no effect" under the survey's "neutral" category.
Spartan living conditions on combat zones may be one reason why combat troops see repeal more negatively than non-combat troops do. Later on in the report, we learn that respondents were most concerned with sleeping/showering arrangements:
As has been reported both in Volume 2 of the final report, respondents appeared to be most concerned about the possibility of showering or rooming with someone who was known to the respondent to be gay or lesbian. The following two quotes are illustrative of how respondents tended to express their concerns:
“I tend to consider myself a fairly open-minded individual however I would still have some issues with being forced to shower and/or live in extremely close quarters (e.g. ship's berthing) with a gay service member.”
“I believe that most service personnel will have no major issues with working with openly gay individuals but will have issues if forced to share bathing and close living quarters.”
The need to address the housing and showering arrangements was also the most frequently raised implementation issue in this sample of comments.
The report's authors dismiss concerns that troops would have to shower with those who may be sexually attracted to them as wrongful stereotyping:
we are convinced that separate bathroom facilities would do more harm than good to unit cohesion and would be impracticable to administer and enforce. Concerns about showers and bathrooms are based on a stereotype—that gay men and lesbians will behave in an inappropriate or predatory manner in these situations. As one gay former Service member told us, to fit in, co-exist, and conform to social norms, gay men have learned to avoid making heterosexuals feel uncomfortable or threatened in situation such as this. The reality is that people of different sexual orientation use shower and bathroom facilities together every day in hundreds of thousands of college dorms, college and high school gyms, professional sports locker rooms, police and fire stations, and athletic clubs.
The report will be hotly debated as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds hearings on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on Thursday and Friday.