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

February 17, 2006

Rarely is a precise price tag put on bigotry. But that's just what happened this week, when a University of California commission totaled the costs associated with the Pentagon's indefensible and staggeringly counterproductive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the American military.
That cost, according to the commission, is $369 million over 10 years, almost double the estimate originally offered by the Department of Defense. That shocking figure includes $79.3 million for recruitment of service members, $252.4 million for training, $17.8 million for officer training, and an additional $14.3 million for "separation travel" for those discharged under the policy.
The shameful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is not merely a waste of taxpayer dollars. Much more important, the Clinton-era program lowers military readiness and jeopardized Americans' safety by removing essential, skilled personnel from our armed forces. In January, the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military released Pentagon figures estimating that 10,000 gay servicemen and women were discharged from the U.S. armed forces since 1994 under the don't ask, don't tell policy. Among them were some of the most highly trained and educated soldiers in the military, including 137 officers and 244 medical and health professionals. Even more incomprehensible, the "post-9/11" military continues to dismiss gay linguists skilled in essential languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, among others.
The treatment of gay Americans by the U.S. military - and by extension, all of us - is an abomination. Perhaps if Americans are not ready to concede the irreducible immorality of "don't ask, don't tell," at least we might be able to agree that it costs too much.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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