University of Florida Journal of Law & Public Policy


This Article is about negotiating social change in the largest U.S. institution, the Military and its five Services. Inducing social change in any institution and society is notoriously difficult when change requires overcoming clashing personal values among stakeholders. And, in this negotiation over the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), clashing values over open service by gays and lesbians were central to the conflict. In response to President Obama’s call to repeal DADT, the Secretary of Defense selected a Working Group to undertake studies, surveys and focus groups to inform the debate. During the nine-month process of gathering a massive amount of information, the Working Group did much more than inform. Its process cultivated buy-in by resistant Service members to the largest shift in social values in the military since racial integration in 1948. This study examines how the Pentagon’s Working Group process contributed to the change and prepared stakeholders for implementation in an Article jointly written by Brigadier General Letendre, Dean of the Faculty at U.S. Air Force Academy, who served as the legal advisor to the Co-Chair of the Working Group, and Professor Hal Abramson, an academic and practitioner in the field of dispute resolution who is an award-winning author. The authors use theoretical negotiation benchmarks to explain and examine choices made by the Working Group while assessing the process against the same benchmarks. While this Article is joint, it is enriched by short commentaries by each author, in which Brigadier General Letendre offers an insider’s view at key points while Professor Abramson offers his observations on key choices. Ultimately this Article is a case study of a complex multiparty process with lessons on negotiating social change.