Pentagon To Improve Gay Policy

Friday, July 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department was releasing details Friday of an ``anti-harassment action plan'' that calls for more carefully tailored training of troops in the Pentagon policy on homosexuals in uniform.

The plan was put together in response to a survey earlier this year by the department's inspector general that found anti-gay speech and harassment were commonplace in the military, especially among enlisted troops.

Carol DiBattiste, undersecretary of the Air Force and head of a panel of civilian and military leaders that created the ``action plan,'' was presenting details at a joint news conference in which Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was to discuss the Army's effort to curb anti-gay harassment.

Shinseki also was presenting an Army inspector general's report on the circumstances surrounding the murder last summer of a gay private at Fort Campbell, Ky., by a fellow soldier. The report concludes that members of the victim's company violated the military's policy on homosexuals, but it clears all commanders at Fort Campbell of wrongdoing, officials familiar with the findings said earlier this week.

The Army report also concludes there was no general ``climate'' of homophobia at Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division, where Pfc. Barry Winchell was murdered in his barracks last July.

Outrage over the Winchell killing renewed a national debate over the Clinton administration's policy on homosexuals, which critics assert does not work because it has failed to protect perceived homosexuals from harassment.

The DiBattiste panel recommends that training in how to implement properly the Clinton administration's ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy on homosexuality be more carefully tailored to troops' rank.

The Defense Department inspector general's survey published in March found a widespread belief among troops that the ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy — which Vice President Al Gore says he would eliminate if he were elected president, but which Texas Gov. George W. Bush supports — is not working. President Clinton himself has said the policy, forged in 1993, is ``out of whack.''

The ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy holds that gays can serve in the armed forces so long as they don't reveal their sexual orientation.

Last August the Pentagon announced a new requirement that commanders seek approval from senior civilians at the Pentagon before opening certain types of investigations of troops who acknowledge that they are gay.


On the Net: Summary of the IG's March report: