Congress Announces Legislation to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Thu. March 3, 2005 12:00 AM by

Gay ban has cost at least $191 million since its inception in 1993

Washington, D.C. - Congressional lawmakers last week announced legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is scheduled to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) on March 2nd.

The proposal is already supported by a bi-partisan coalition of Congressional representatives, including Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) among others.

Announcement of the bill follows release of a new Government Accounting Office (GAO) report analyzing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The GAO report conservatively estimates the gay ban has cost at least $191 million since its inception in 1993.

The report's financial estimate, however, includes only costs associated with recruiting and training enlistees to replace those discharged under the ban. The GAO analysis does not include costs associated with discharging officers or the nearly 800 specialists with critical skills who have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Administrative costs associated with discharges are also not included in the GAO analysis.

"Our homeland is more secure when every qualified, capable American who wants to serve is allowed to do so," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "The choice we now face is clear: Spend $191 million on firing patriotic Americans or spend the same amount on a dozen Blackhawk helicopters or 800 sidewinder missiles. Our priority should always be defense and security. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is the best proposal to do just that."

According to GAO, the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who "had... skills in a foreign language that DoD had considered to be especially important.'" SLDN reported in 2004 that at least three dozen of those linguists spoke Arabic, Farsi or Korean, language the Pentagon acknowledges are understaffed. Nearly 800 specialists, including intelligence analysts, divers and combat controllers, were fired despite having "some training in an occupation identified... as 'critical.'"

Since 1993, more than 10,000 service members have been fired under the gay ban. During that same time period, many of the United States' closest military allies, including Great Britain and Canada, repealed their prohibitions on gay service personnel.

"Congress and the American people now have the benefit of more than a decade of evidence indicting 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Osburn. "Every American in every community benefits from the talents and skills of the more than 65,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual service members on duty in our armed forces. Today's legislation will ensure their service is honored and give our military the opportunity to grow its pool of the best and brightest our nation has to offer, regardless of sexual orientation. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is costly, unnecessary and hurts our national defense. Congress should approve this important legislation before one more service member is fired because of a law that flies in the face of our nation's best interests."

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," adopted by Congress in 1993, is a prohibition on lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel. Under the law, military personnel cannot reveal their sexual orientation to anyone, including family members, without risking expulsion from the armed forces.

The GAO analysis was requested in 2004 by a bi-partisan group of 22 Members of Congress. Copies of the report, and today's announced legislation, are available for download at

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