Will Recruiting Suffer If 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Is Repealed?

By Annie Augustine

Most concerns about allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military have to do with disrupting unit cohesion, effectiveness, and readiness.  But this past Sunday on ABC's This Week, Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (Ret.), senior fellow for National Security at the Family Research Council, raised a concern we've heard less about--recruiting.  Maginnis told host Christiane Amanpour that Congress will have a bigger problem on their hands if the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is repealed, as it will alienate the three main groups from which the military recruits. Skip ahead to 8:17:

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Does Maginnis' point hold up?  According to a May 2010 Gallup poll, 64 percent of people from the South and 53 percent of conservatives favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.  The poll does not reflect the opinions of people from multi-generational military families or the mountain West.

Here's how the Pentagon's internal review, meanwhile, addresses the recruitment issue:

The Services rely on referrals--from family, friends, and current or former Service members--for about a third of new recruits. Overall, nearly one-half (47%) of Service members said that repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would have no effect on their willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend; 6% said that it would have positive effect; 10% said it would have a mixed effect; and 27% said it would have a negative effect.

While polls vary on the degree, the majority of Americans favor repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." What remains uncertain is whether or not the leanings of 27 percent of servicemembers would would hurt military recruitment numbers, and just how heavily recruitment would be affected by the minority opinions of the groups Maginnis mentions.

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