Military Policy on Gays is Costly and
March 5, 2005
By Gene C. Gerard
military spent over $200 million to recruit and train personnel
to replace service members discharged over the last decade for being
openly gay, according to a Congressional report that was just released.
The report found that over 10,000 troops were discharged for violating
the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that was instituted in 1993 under
President Clinton. The policy allows military personnel to serve
only if they do not disclose their homosexuality to anyone, including
The estimate of $200 million was conservative, at best. The report
only reviewed enlisted personnel who were discharged, and did not
include the figures for replacing officers. Additionally, the report
only contained the estimates of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force.
The Marines declined to participate in the study. The report also
did not consider the costs of investigating and discharging the
personnel, nor did it contain the costs of processing legal challenges
and reviews of the dismissals.
It has always been known that the military’s policy on gays was
illogical at best, and discriminatory at worst. But this new report
shows that it has also been extremely costly. But the cost of discharging
gays is not just in financial terms. Some of those discharged have
held skills sorely needed in today’s military. Over 90 nuclear power
engineers, 150 rocket and missile specialists, and 49 nuclear, chemical,
and biological warfare specialists have been discharged.
Since last summer, the Pentagon has called up over 5,600 specially
trained members of the Individual Ready Reserve, former soldiers
who have completed their military service and do not participate
in ongoing training. Requiring these service members to re-enlist
has accurately been called a “back-door draft.” The Defense Department
said this is necessary because of the shortage of troops in Iraq
and Afghanistan. But to some extent, this necessity has been created
by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Twenty-one infantry soldiers have been called up from the Ready
Reserve, but over 340 of these soldiers have been discharged for
homosexuality. Similarly, the Army needed three more foreign language
interrogators in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, yet 15 have been
discharged. Over 50 intelligence operatives have been discharged
from the Army, but they reported a shortage of 33 operatives. Over
72 military law enforcement personnel, primarily police officers
and prison guards, have been called up owing to a shortage of these
specially trained troops. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal glaringly
demonstrated the need for competent, well-trained prison guards.
Yet over 163 law enforcement personnel have been discharged.
Most significant has been the discharge of much needed foreign
language experts. Between 1998 and 2004, at least 88 language specialists
were expelled from the military for being gay; no fewer than 20
were proficient in Middle Eastern languages. At least 37 were discharged
since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This has placed
the country, and our troops, at great risk.
The 9/11 Commission noted that the U.S. “lacked sufficient translators
proficient in Arabic and other key languages, resulting in significant
backlog of untranslated intercepts.” And as recently as last summer,
the intelligence community acknowledged that due to a shortage of
translators, the average timeframe to translate a suspect communication
is 30 days. The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board recently warned
that America “is without a working channel of communications to
the world of Muslims and Islam.”
The strain on the military, as a result of deployments to Iraq
and Afghanistan, is the most severe it has been since the Vietnam
War. In February, the Pentagon announced that five of the six military
reserve components failed to meet recruitment goals for the previous
four months. The Marines failed to meet their recruitment goal in
January, the first time in a decade that this has occurred. The
Army National Guard has missed its recruitment goal for the first
quarter of 2005 by 24 percent. Given the shortages, the continued
dismissal of military personnel based solely on sexual orientation
is contrary to protecting the country.
Twenty-four nations allow gay individuals to openly serve in the
military. And the U.S. armed forces has ample evidence that doing
so has not created the problems they fear. Although not widely reported,
an article was published in 2003 in Parameters, a publication of
the U.S. Army, which reviewed the experiences of foreign military
allies who abolished their ban on gay personnel. The article concluded
that there was no negative impact on unit cohesion, morale, retention,
American troops have been serving with gay British soldiers in
Iraq for the past 18 months. British military authorities have noted
that there have been no problems. The British navy is so pleased
with gay personnel that they are now actively recruiting gays and
lesbians. Part of this effort includes allowing gay couples to live
in housing previously reserved for married couples. Royal Navy Commodore
Paul Docherty said they want to change the military’s culture so
that gays will feel comfortable working there.
Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts is scheduled to introduce
the Military Readiness Enhancement Act in the House of Representatives
in March. The act will repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
It’s time to do so. We should never have discriminated against young
men and women who want to serve honorably. And we cannot continue
to put the nation’s security, and our troops, at risk.
Gene C. Gerard teaches American history at a small college in suburban
Dallas, and is a contributing author to the forthcoming book "Americans
at War," to be published by Greenwood Press. His previous articles
have appeared in Democratic Underground, The Free Press, Political
Affairs Magazine, Dissident Voice, The Modern Tribune, Intervention
Magazine, and The Palestine Chronicle.