Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Between Logic and Politics : Incisive RAND study on homosexuals/military

August 28, 1993

"Implementation is most successful where the message is unambiguous, consistently delivered and uniformly enforced." So says a comprehensive and lucid RAND report, released earlier this week, that analyzes strategies for lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military. Yet the new policy that President Clinton outlined last month would appear to fall short of the standards set out not only by the RAND report but, originally, by the President himself.

Clinton's July 19 decision allows gay men and lesbians to serve--but only with strict limitations. Although the details remain to be spelled out, the new Administration guidelines contain considerable ambiguity and inherent risks of continuing the sort of inequitable enforcement that has characterized the treatment of homosexuals in the military. The RAND report--which was requested and funded by Secretary of Defense Les Aspin--is an implicit challenge to the logic of current Administration policy.

THE POLITICS: During his campaign, Clinton vowed to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces. But once in office he ran into a wall of opposition from members of Congress and military leaders. Looking for guidance on this divisive issue, the Administration commissioned the RAND report and an internal Pentagon analysis.

In July, after months of wrangling, the President announced what he termed "an honorable compromise"--allowing gays to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private. It discourages the military from conducting investigations on the mere suspicion that an individual is homosexual. But the new policy may still give unit commanders broad latitude, allowing them to determine whether "credible information" exists that a person is engaging in homosexual conduct. A high potential for abuse of authority and inconsistent treatment remains. So too does the inequality of denying otherwise qualified men and women, solely on the basis of sexual orientation, the opportunity to serve their country.

THE POLICY: Yet the RAND report demonstrates that Clinton's original goal--unequivocally lifting the ban--was not only the right one but achievable. The 518-page document challenges, or dismisses as manageable problems, virtually all of the major arguments made against eliminating the restrictions on gay soldiers. It contends that other nations that allow gay service men and women have found that they are generally circumspect in their behavior and cause few problems. The report also found no credible evidence that the presence of homosexuals hurts combat effectiveness and unit cohesion.

Congress and the Defense Department are currently developing specific rules to implement the plan Clinton outlined. We hope the RAND findings serve to push Congress and the Pentagon in the direction they should have moved all along. As the RAND authors concluded, "leadership is critical" to the success of this policy change. The new message "must be consistently communicated from the top."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|