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Outside Study Challenges Findings Of Internal Pentagon Study on Gays

By Thomas W. Lippman
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

A Pentagon team set up last spring to evaluate the impact of lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military reported deep and widespread antipathy to homosexuals, from foxhole to latrine to Little League field. But a parallel study by a private group found most of the concerns to be unfounded.

Both reports, commissioned by Defense Secretary Les Aspin to help him and President Clinton formulate a new, more lenient policy on gay men and lesbians in the military, were released Thursday by the Defense Department.

In effect, the two reports mirrored the public and political debate on this emotional subject: deep-seated hostility to homosexuals within the military, offset by findings from outside indicating that the potential problems, while real, would be less than feared and manageable with competent leadership.

From these opposing perspectives, both studies recommended the policy that Clinton eventually adopted last month. Gay men and lesbians are no longer to be barred from serving solely because they are homosexual, but homosexual conduct remains grounds for discharge.

The in-house report was submitted by a military working group of about 50 members, headed by five officers: Army Maj. Gen. John P. Otjen; Air Force Maj. Gen. William B. Davitte; Marine Brig. Gen. Gerald L. Miller; Navy Rear Adm. John S. Reed; and Coast Guard Rear Adm. James M. Loy.

Based on meetings with military personnel, consultations with scholars and a review of "available literature," this group concluded that "all homosexuality is incompatible with military service."

Because homosexuals are perceived to have lifestyles "contrary to those of the unit," they could not be effective leaders, the report said.

But because the president's instructions precluded retention of the outright ban, the panel concluded reluctantly that there was only one way to end discrimination while maintaining readiness. "Sexual orientation will be considered a personal and private matter," the group recommended. "The armed forces won't ask and servicemembers will not be required to reveal their sexual orientation," but they "will be discharged if they are found to have engaged in homosexual conduct."

By contrast, a 518-page report prepared by the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif., think thank, offered little support for the views of the military panel.

Based on studies of foreign armies and domestic police and fire departments that accept homosexuals, Rand found that relatively few homosexuals enlist, those who do generally adhere to the norms of their units. Potential problems can be averted by effective leadership and clearly stated rules of conduct.

Overall, the Rand study validated the argument of those who supported the admission of homosexuals into the armed forces by concluding that behavior, not attitudes, is what counts.

Rand researchers went to Canada, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Norway, all of which permit "known homosexuals to serve in some capacity." They found that openly gay service members in those countries "were appropriately circumspect in their behavior while in military situations; they did not call attention to themselves in ways that could make their service less pleasant or impede their careers.