A report issued last week by a commission from the University of California at Santa Barbara concluded that the U.S. militaryâs âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ policy has cost $364 million dollars over 10 years, almost twice as much as the $190 million calculated by the General Accountability Office in 2005.
The 12-member commission included Clintonâs Defense Secretary, William J. Perry, former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense, Lawrence Korb, university professors and military experts.
âOversights in GAOâs methodology led to both under and overestimations of the financial costs of implementing âDonât Ask, Donât Tell.â By correcting these oversights, and after careful analysis of available data, this commission finds that the total cost implementing âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ between fiscal year 1994 and fiscal year 2003 was at least $363.8 million,â the report concluded.
The commission found that the military spent millions of dollars replacing and training soldiers for positions vacated by those discharged for being gay.
The UC study also offered a more detailed calculation than the 2005 GAO report of the âinvestmentâ lost when a soldier is prematurely discharged.
âThe GAO assumed that every person fired under âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ cost the same amount in losses to the military,â said Aaron Belkin, a commission member and Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at UC Santa Barbara. âBut obviously someone fired a day before their retirement costs the military a lot less than a soldier fired after five years who on average would be expected to stay for another seven years,â Belkin said.
The study concluded this loss of personnel is especially harmful to the military because of its special needs. âUnlike other industries, the military is unique in that it has to âgrowâ its own employees and can not, in general, hire laterally from other sectors. As a result, length-of-service and on-the-job training are very valuable to the armed forces, and a service member returns much more value to the military as his or her experience increase.â
The University study also noted that the GAO failed to employ its own past estimates for the cost of training one service member. Earlier GAO studyâs indicated that training one enlistee costs on average $28,000. However, the GAOâs 2005 âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ study instead inexplicably used a much smaller figures, in the case of the Army, only $6400. The report also factored in costs of investigations, processing discharges, transportation for discharged service members, details not included in the GAO study.
âDADTâ was instituted under President Clinton who was forced to retreat from his campaign promise of allowing open service by gay people when it appeared Congress was on the verge of placing the militaryâs gay ban into U.S. law. The compromise allowed gays and lesbians to serve as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation or engage in homosexual âconduct.â
Pentagon figures indicate that since 1994, more than 9500 individuals have been discharged for violating âDonât Ask, Donât Tell.â According to the Pentagon, 90 percent of these discharges result from statements made by individual service members.
Northwestern University sociology professor, Charles Moskos, a self-acknowledged architect of âDADT,â told the Washington Post last week that most people in the service who claim to be gay do it to get out of their tour agreement early. He also said the costs of âDADTâ do not outweigh the loss of personnel who would leave or never sign upâespecially for combat positionsâbecause they did not want to serve alongside open gays and lesbians.
âThere are no doubt some service members misuse the policy to shirk their duty,â said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group that provides advice and legal support to soldiers accused of violating âDADT.â
âWe have always said this is a great argument for why we need to get rid of the law.â
Ralls added that the Pentagonâs 90 percent claim needs to be understood through what the military considers an admission. âReporting anti-gay harassment has often been considered a statement, â Ralls said.
As example of how much latitude is given to what might be considered an admission, Ralls said that last year SLDN defended a female Air Force officer whose commander attempted to get her discharged based solely on the womanâs possession of Melissa Etheridge music CDs.
Data from foreign militaries that allow gays and lesbians to serve also hints there might not be a mass exodus of heterosexual soldiers once the U.S. ban is lifted. The British military, which allows open service, has not reported a single incident of a service member leaving the military because they might have to work alongside a gay or lesbian.
The UC-Santa Barbara study comes at a time when the U.S. military is experiencing a near service-wide recruitment slump, and the number of personnel departing has almost reached record highs. The U.S. Army missed its 2005 recruitment goal by 7,000 soldiers. According to the Associated Press more than 10 percent of enlisted personnel left the military in 2005, an increase from 8.7 percent in 2002.
A report obtained by the Baltimore Sun last week showed the U.S. Army granting in increasing numbers and percentage over the past five years special exceptions to recruits who in the past would not have been accepted for service because of drug and alcohol abuse, or past criminal behavior.
In an email interview, Rod Powers, an independent military expert, said pressure from Congressâs mandate that the U.S. Army increase its ranks by 30,000 soldiers has led to the increase in waivers, but that the waiver statistics are not significant for the Armyâs overall performance.
âThe Army is not âpacking their ranksâ [with problem soldiers]. Individuals who get into trouble, whether they have a previous criminal history or not, would not get promoted. Rather they would likely be discharged.â
This year the U.S. Army also doubled its enlistment bonus. All of which, alongside the Iraq war, means the U.S. military has come under an increasing cost strain in the past decade. A cost strain compounded by the âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ policy.
The Santa Barbara report concludes with how âDADTâ raises the militaryâs incidental costs because the policy forces gays and lesbians to cover their sexual orientation.
A forthcoming study cited in the report indicated that nearly 20 percent of gay service members who successfully completed a term of service chose not to re-enlist because they could not be open about their sexuality.
Similarly, about 20 percent of gay veterans stated they had married while in the military to avoid scrutiny. Their spouses were then eligible for healthcare and other benefits from the armed forces. Costs that would not have been borne if gays and lesbians were allowed to serve openly.
âSuch a phenomenon would be less likely to occur after the lifting of the ban,â the report said.