Statement by Scholars and Experts on U.S. Civil-Military Relations

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As ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ heats up, expert consultants for the military raise concerns that our democracy is threatened, calling into question the military’s truth-telling and civilian leadership’s failure to hold them accountable.

As scholars and experts on American civil-military relations, we are keenly aware of the critical balance that it is necessary to maintain between military and civilian leadership. We are concerned about a precedent reflected in the current debate about gays and lesbians in the military involving consultations by U.S. lawmakers of top uniformed personnel.

Civilian leaders must, of course, consult with the military before making decisions that affect the men and women who serve in our armed forces and which might affect the national security of the United States. The recent invitation by the Senate and House for the Service Chiefs to offer their best judgment about whether it is time to end the current ban on openly gay troops was therefore appropriate.

We are concerned, however, that political leaders seem poised to accept advice provided by the Service Chiefs uncritically, advice which does not seem to take into account considerable research that has emerged over the past fifty years about the impact of openly gay service on military effectiveness. Much of that research was conducted by the U.S. military’s own experts.

In particular, we are perplexed by the Chiefs’ claim that they have insufficient data to assess the impact of openly gay service; by their argument that the transition to inclusive policy will be an upheaval that will be difficult to manage; and by their suggestion that because the military is engaged in a two-front war, it is unable to manage that transition. (We note, for example, the recent recommendation to allow women on submarines).

Acting on advice which is not grounded in data would be inconsistent with the tradition of civilian control of the armed forces. We hope that the ongoing conversation surrounding this issue will take these concerns into account and that civilian leaders will properly exercise their Constitutional authority to govern the military, rather than the other way around.

BG Hugh Aitken, USMC (ret.)
Professor Deborah Avant, University of California Irvine
Professor Aaron Belkin, University of California Santa Barbara
Lt. Col. Allen Bishop, USA (ret.), former professor, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Professor James Burk, Texax A&M University
Professor Neta C. Crawford, Boston University
Dr. Carol Cohn, Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
Professor Martin L. Cook, Admiral James Bond Stockdale Chair of Professional Military Ethics, United States Naval War College*
Lt. Col. Edie A. Disler, USAF (ret.), former professor, U.S. Air Force Academy
Dr. Lynn Eden, Stanford University
Professor Mark Eitelberg, Naval Postgraduate School*
Professor Cynthia Enloe, Clark University
Eugene R. Fidell, Senior Researcher in Law and Florence Rogatz Lecture in Law, Yale Law School
Professor Gregory D. Foster, National Defense University*
Professor Hugh Gusterson, George Mason University
Professor Elizabeth Hillman, University of California Hastings
John D. Hutson, RADM, JAGC, USN (ret.), President and Dean, Franklin Pierce Law Center
Professor Richard H. Kohn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Professor Janice Laurence, Temple University
Professor Catherine Lutz, Brown University
Professor Diane H. Mazur, University of Florida College of Law
Professor George Reed, University of San Diego, former Director of Command and Leadership Studies, U.S. Army War College
Professor Steven M. Samuels, United States Air Force Academy*
Professor David R. Segal, University of Maryland
Professor Mady Segal, University of Maryland
Professor Michael S. Sherry, Northwestern University
Professor David Vine, American University [USA]

*The views expressed by faculty at US Government Agencies are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of their Service, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government

The Palm Center is a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 1998, the Center has been a leader in commissioning and disseminating research in the areas of gender, sexuality, and the military. For more information visit


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