In a new paper on the efficacy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" published in this month's Joint Force Quarterly, Col. Om Prakash boils down half a century of Pentagon-commissioned studies on gays in the military into seven short pages. Reviewing the research, he finds that the facts of gay servicemembers' fitness to serve have changed little over 50 years. But the reports themselves reveal something more: The Defense Department's own criticisms of military policies toward gay soldiers have remained consistent, too.
The DoD has funded studies on the impact of gay servicemembers as far back as 1957, when the Navy's Crittenden Report found "no factual data" to support the idea that they posed a greater security risk than heterosexual personnel. Straight officers boasting secrets due to "feelings of inadequacy" were a realer threat, it found. Despite these findings, the report recommended no changes to dismissal policies, for a reason that would define the department's stance on open service into the 21st century: "The service should not move ahead of civilian society nor attempt to set substantially different standards in attitude or action with respect to homosexual offenders."
In 1988, the Defense Personnel Security Research Center -- a DoD agency -- conducted its own study on gay soldiers to determine whether their service under current policies created security risks, for instance in terms of blackmail. It also discussed, based on the military and wider social data available, whether the military's policies were sustainable. The study returned again and again to the facts of conduct: "Studies of homosexual veterans make clear that having a same gender or an opposite-gender orientation is unrelated to job performance in the same way as is being left or right-handed."