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Don't Ask Don't Tell Guidelines Worthless

On April 13, Pentagon officials released new anti-gay harassment and investigations guidelines. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) called the guidelines too little, too late given that Pentagon officials failed to distribute similar guidance more than two years ago. The guidelines also failed to address key concerns relating to the limits to investigations under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" policy.

"The Administration and Pentagon officials should not be passing off these guidelines as a cure-all for the problems of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" policy. While the guidelines respond to some of our concerns, much more is needed. The real test is whether commanders in the field will be held accountable for stopping harassment," said Michelle M. Benecke, SLDN's Co-Executive Director. "Today's guidelines do not usher in a new day under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," Benecke added.

The guidelines state that: commanders cannot investigate a service member's sexual orientation without credible information; reports of anti-gay harassment or threats must be investigated promptly; and service members reporting anti-gay harassment should not be investigated under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" or retaliated against because they report the harassment.

Additionally, the guidelines order commanders to institute anti-harassment training and recommend military lawyers consult with senior attorneys before investigating a service member under the policy. Commanders are also required to seek approval from the Secretary of their military branch before starting a substantive investigation in a limited number of cases where recoupment of scholarships and bonuses are at issue. Finally, the Inspectors General of each branch must check to see whether commanders, lawyers and investigators are being trained on the policy when conducting regular unit inspections.

The guidelines were issued a few days after Article 32 hearings were held for PVT Calvin Glover, who is charged with the premeditated murder of PFC Barry Winchell in his barracks at Ft. Campbell, KY. According to the August 13th, New York Times, a Clinton Administration official said "the Pentagon felt the need to announce the new guidelines as quickly as possible, given the uproar over the death last month of a gay soldier…."

"President Clinton and Defense Secretary Cohen should be ashamed it took more than two years before they would act, despite being repeatedly warned that steps were needed to stop anti-gay violence and harassment," stated Benecke.

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