ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen urged service members to complete at survey on the controversial "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy on homosexuals in the military that was sent out Wednesday, saying it was critical to get their input on how a policy reversal, if decided, would affect them.
Advocacy groups for gay and lesbian service members, however, offered a mixed review of the move. One group is cautioning gay and lesbian service members not to complete it.
The survey, sent to 400,000 active and reserve troops, asks their views on the policy and how they would feel about its implementation.
"I strongly encourage gays and lesbians who are in the military to fill out these forms," Gates said. "We've organized this in a way to protect their privacy and the confidentiality of their responses through a third party, and it's important that we hear from them as well as everybody else. But I think we're satisfied that this is an important element of this effort, and that it's being done in a very professional way."
The Servicemember Legal Defense Network has warned its members that the DADT policy is still in effect, and they could be outed if the confidential survey is not airtight.
Another group, Servicemembers United, offered tepid support for the survey, saying, “While Servicemembers United remains concerned about unintentional bias in the question wording within this survey, we are satisfied that sufficient measures are in place to protect the confidentiality of any gay and lesbian servicemember who would like to fully and honestly participate in this survey."
Speaking about the survey’s efforts overall, Gates said: "I think it is very important for us to understand from our men and women in uniform the challenges that they see.”
Mullen wouldn’t speculate on how the results of the survey might affect implementation of a policy change, should one be decided.
"To reach out at this point and try to predict either what they might say or what the results might say, I just think it's too early with respect to that," the chairman said.
Gates said he asked the task force to double the sample size of the survey from the 200,000 initially envisioned in order to get a stronger sense of the sentiment among the rank and file.
"I strongly suggested that they double the size of the sample — that I wanted a significant percentage of the force to have an opportunity to offer their views on this,” he told reporters.