Tuesday, February 14, 2006

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' costs $364 million

(Link) Over the decade it's been in place, the homophobic policy has booted out 9,500 people and cost about twice what the government estimated. That kinda money could have gone a long way toward hurricane aid. Or education. Or filling potholes, etc.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

Washington Blade

It cost the federal government just under $364 million to discharge and replace about 9,500 gay service members during the first decade of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The figure is 91 percent more than previously estimated, according to a study conducted by a panel of military experts assembled by the University of California.

The 12-member Blue Ribbon Commission that conducted the study was scheduled to release a report Feb. 14 saying it was unable to obtain certain information from the Pentagon that likely would have indicated still higher costs.

“[O]ur strong sense is that our final estimate is too low and that the net result is that we have under-reported the total cost of implementing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” the report says.

Among commission members who wrote the report was Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry and Reagan administration assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb. Others serving on the commission included a retired Army colonel, a retired admiral and two professors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, released its own report on the cost of discharging gays under the policy in February 2005. That report concluded that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy cost a minimum of $190.5 million for the 10-year period from fiscal year 1994 through fiscal year 2003.

No info the GAO

Similar to the University of California report, the GAO report said its authors were unable to obtain information from the Defense Department needed to provide a full accounting of the cost for discharging gay service members and training new people to replace them.

“Oversights in GAO’s methodology led to both under and overestimations of the financial costs of implementing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” the UC report says. “By correcting these oversights, and after careful analysis of available data, this commission finds that the total cost of implementing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ between fiscal year 1994 and fiscal year 2003 was at least $363.8 million, which is $73.3 million, or 91 percent, more than originally reported by GAO.

“Given that we were not able to include several cost categories in our estimate and that we used conservative assumptions to guide our research,” the report says, “our estimate of the cost of implementing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should be seen as a lower bound estimate.”

President Clinton proposed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 1993 after it became clear that Congress was poised to overturn his earlier plan to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

Congress modified the Clinton proposal and enacted it into law as part of a military authorization bill. It went into effect in 1994.

The policy allows gays to serve in the military as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation, do not engage in “homosexual conduct,” and do not enter into a same-sex marriage. Clinton argued that the policy was an improvement over the previous policy that banned gays from serving under all circumstances.

But gay activists and a growing number of gay-supportive members of Congress say the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy remains highly discriminatory. More than 100 members of the House have co-sponsored legislation introduced by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) to repeal the policy and allow gays to serve openly.

A flaw in the system?

According to the UC report, the GAO study was flawed because it focused mostly on the estimated cost for replacing ousted gay service members. The UC report says it based its cost estimates on several criteria, including the cost to the military of the “lost value” of the expected full term of each service member discharged prematurely.

If a gay service member was discharged shortly before he or she completed their term, the cost to the military would be minimal, the report says. But if the service member were discharged shortly after he or she completed basic and advanced training, the cost would be far higher.

The report estimates that “skills training” for most enlisted members who are not officers ranges between $15,000 and $30,000 depending on whether they receive “mid-career” training. The average estimated cost to recruit and train officers, the report says, comes to about $174,000. In the case of a single, highly trained officer, such as a jet fighter pilot, the training cost could be as high as $1.4 million.

Other costs come into play, the report says, such as costs for processing the discharges and costs for investigating service members suspected of violating the policy.

Pentagon officials have said that many — possibly the majority —service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation to enable them to leave the military before the end of their terms.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which assists gay service members, has said gay service members often seek early discharges to avoid anti-gay harassment or because of stress caused by having to conceal their true identity.

The UC report says a large number of gay service members choose not to re-enlist even when they manage to complete their terms without being discovered.

“While it is impossible to know with certainty how many gays and lesbians fail to re-enlist because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ [surveys of gay veterans] suggest that the military may be losing some of its investment in recruiting and training individuals who would remain in uniform if the ban were repealed,” the report says.