By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke
Gay advocates are hoping that on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will unveil a new approach to the current policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which was put in place in 1993. More than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the law since 1994, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group seeking its repeal.
Critics say there are unseen and stiff costs involved in simply applying the law. The Government Accountability Office says "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" cost taxpayers $190.5 million dollars over its first ten years. However, a blue ribbon panel commissioned by the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara faulted the GAO figure as too low. The panel, which included former Defense Secretary William Perry, put the price tag at $363.7 million – factoring in the cost to recruit, train and then discharge gay troops.
"Repealing the ban would save money in the long run, absolutely," said Nathaniel Frank, senior fellow at the Palm Center. "We've spent roughly half a billion dollars kicking out competent gay people that we badly need just under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" But some who support the current law say the cost doesn't justify repealing it.
"The discharge of 13,000 or so people is miniscule in comparison to the overall administrative burden the military pays every year – discharging 280,000 people a year," says retired Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, who works as a Pentagon consultant.