Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said on Tuesday that he supports an internal Pentagon survey of servicemembers' opinions of "Don't Ask Don't Tell", provided that the questions are phrased in a way that ensures the results won't affect policy.
But the Michigan Democrat, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and is a vocal opponent of DADT, expressed deep concern that the survey results would be leaked, in an effort to launch a quasi-veto threat of DADT's repeal.
"I wouldn't call for them to be released at all. They will probably [be] leaked. But it won't be leaked at my suggestion," Levin said, during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "It should not be released in my judgment. It was intended to be a private survey and it ought to stay that way. I have no hopes that that will be the case. But I obviously dream."
A bit of controversy erupted late last week when it was revealed that the Defense Department sent a survey to 400,000 servicemembers asking them for their opinions on DADT -- the discriminatory policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the armed forces. Critics noted that internal polling has not been done during other moments of desegregation within the military (both with women and African-Americans). Moreover, they expressed concern that the results of the findings could be used to stall congressional action in repealing DADT, or to institute a system of open segregation in the armed forces once congressional action is finished.
These are legitimate concerns, said Levin. And it is vital to dispel the notion that the survey's results will impact any future internal-military policy.
"It would be really, really unacceptable that the greater use of surveys might lead people of the military to believe it is a democracy," said the senator. "The military is not a democracy."
But while he has not seen the survey himself, Levin is willing to support its implementation, provided that the obvious pitfalls are avoided.
"If the survey were properly worded and got to all of the issues including the feelings about discrimination, I wouldn't have a problem with it," he said. "Even though it is kind of unprecedented. It did not happen when it came to the inclusion of women. It did not happen when it came to the ending of discrimination against African Americans. Those surveys weren't taken and I can understand the resentment, by the way, from the gay community that this occurs now but not with those other efforts..."
"It has to be clear that this is done by the leaders of the Defense Department to help them implement a decision that they have made that this discriminatory policy should end, so that the people filling out the survey don't get the impression that there is a veto they are going to help create if they vote no or against inclusion of gays in the military. Then I wouldn't have a problem with it."