A follow-up study by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities at UC Santa Barbara in the Military reinforces itâ€™s earlier conclusion that the Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell policy has cost the U.S. government far in excess of its official estimate. In 2005 the U.S. Governmentâ€™s General Accountability Office released a study that estimated the militaryâ€™s policy of discharging open gay and lesbian service members had cost more than $190 million in the previous ten years. But a later analysis by a Blue Ribbon panel formed under the auspices of the Center determined the GAO had underestimated several costs associated with the policy. The panelâ€™s conclusion indicated the cost of DADT was more than twice the GAO estimate.
Prompted by the discrepancy, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) sent a letter to GAO requesting clarification. In July, the GAO responded, concluding that the Centerâ€™s estimate primarily relied on two items: the cost to train individuals later discharged under DADT and the additional investment made by the military to train specialized skills such as intelligence analysts and communications operators.
The GAO said the Center overestimated the investment required for a single recruit because it included spending in infrastructure and overhead associated with training not necessarily lost when a soldier departed the service. â€śIncluding total infrastructure costs was not appropriate for our 2005 estimate since individuals separated for homosexual conduct represent such a small portion of the active force,â€ť the July GAO letter said.
â€śOur 1998 estimate was intended to demonstrate the magnitude of the cost of training all recruits (hundreds of thousands each year) and the potential loss when attrition rates are high.â€ť
As well, the GAO said its numbers were accurate as far as its own study because it did not claim to analyze the actual cost of each discharged service member based on their particular training and length of training, and used per-person costs provided by the military. The figure presented by the Commission was also higher, according to the GAO, because it included an inflation estimate.
In a letter issued last month, the Centerâ€™s Director and Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission, Aaron Belkin wrote that the GAOâ€™s defense of its own study relies on several flaws. First, the Commission cited GAOâ€™s figure of $28,800 when calculating the average cost of training an enlistee, which the GAO admits includes infrastructure costs. The GAO figure was used in an earlier study examining the loss to the military through high attrition rates. For its 2005 DADT study the GAO relied on the smaller figures of $6,400 for the Army, $7,400 for the Air Force and $18,800 for the Navy.
â€śGAOâ€™s July 13 response misleads,â€ť Belkin wrote. â€śBy suggesting that infrastructure costs account for a substantial proportion of the $28,200... GAO provides no data to support this assertion, and other data published by GAO indicate that the figure is based primarily on direct costs, not infrastructure costs.â€ť
Belkin also contended that had the GAO examined individual service data, rather than assuming that persons discharged under certain categories had completed only basic training, it would have found in most cases such an assumption was incorrect, and this called into question other estimates made by the Agency. â€śWhat we donâ€™t understand is how they could still defend their study even after we corrected their numbers in a transparent fashion,â€ť said Nathaniel Frank, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center.
In particular, Frank pointed to the individualized costs revealed when the Commission analyzed how and for what a soldier had trained. The GAO in its 2005 report said privacy concerns prevented them from such an analysis. â€śAnd when they didnâ€™t have data, they minimized its impact,â€ť Frank said.
Derek Stuart, GAO Director for Military and DOD Civilian Personnel Issues said in an interview that his agencyâ€™s report was accurate based on what is was asked to do and the methodology employed. â€śWithout getting into a tete-a-tete with the Commission, the figure of $28,800 is based on what it costs to train every member of the armed forces, from infantrymen to doctors. Most of those discharged under Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell were in the service a very short time and a small number, so we limited the costs to the actual jobs being performed by those dismissed,â€ť Stewart said.
Stewart said because the number of those discharged under Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell were a small number compared with the overall force, including infrastructure costs did not make sense. Stewart also said including costs of paying for a service members transportation home after being discharged under DADT did not make sense as well because every service member is entitled to that no matter their reason for leaving the armed forces.