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February 2nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

The cost of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

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.

Related: Sources: Joint Chiefs set to review 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy


Filed under: Gay Rights • Military
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    I don't understand why it is so hard for people to understand the wrongness of denying gays/lesbians to serve in the military. Putting "Don't Ask Don't Tell" aside, let's recall from recent American history the discrimination against certain groups of people from serving in our military, ie African-Americans and women. In each case, there were those who railed against the integration and acceptance of these people joining and serving in our military. What has happened since? It is true that there were hardships that needed to be overcome and stubborn mentalities that needed to be softened. But since those times, we have forced the most stringent among us to stop and think. Do most people still believe that blacks and women should not join the military? Does a person have to hide their gender or race to be part of our country's defense? We all need to remember that this country was once on the other side of the discrimination line. Have we only progressed so far as to return to the same state of mind 50-100 years ago? I hope not.

    Please share my comments with all who agree or disagree.

    February 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  2. Aaron

    In my opinion, this is another form of racism. To judge people by who the're attracted to is sickening, but to do that to someone who wants
    these prejudice americans to be protected while they fight, is horrible.

    February 2, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  3. Brooke

    Don't ask, don't tell policy is a facade. Recruits are required to sign a statement stating that they are not gay as part of their processing paperwork before ever leaving for bootcamp.

    February 2, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  4. Christopher Quesenberry

    I support the President's decision 100%. While I hear that some complain of the impact that having openly gay and lesbian service members would have on unit cohesion, I disagree. Many already serve in a "pseudo" open state when they have commands that don't care to enforce the policy. These commands are pragmatic enough to see the value that these service men and women provide and, evidently, they don't have a negative impact on unit morale. For those who argue "what about the rights of the heterosexual service member", it's time that the military stop being a place for homophobic people to hide. Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Israel all have openly gay service members in their ranks and it hasn't been detrimental to their armed forces. Those who cannot live with the changes should simply leave the military and pursue careers elsewhere. The military would be a better place without bigotry and hate, and those openly gay and lesbian service members could finally focus on the task at hand without looking over their shoulder – to serve and protect their country and to defend our country against terrorism.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  5. Joseph Daniel Brian Lawlor

    I have a question for leaderships and the Peoples in general. What part of "we are neither above nor below one another"is not understood as it should be understood. Quick to bring up God yet going against the word of God as written a sign of ignorance is it
    not.
    Repealing the 'Don't ask, don't tell" policy an example of removing the ignorance and arrogance replacing them with knowledge and understanding is it not.

    February 2, 2010 at 6:34 am |