Last week, at my request, the Pentagon released information on the number of troops and their respective occupation specialty that were discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the month of January.
These are the last soldiers to be fired by the Bush Administration, good soldiers let go for something they have as much control over as the natural color of their hair or eyes.
At a time when our military’s readiness is strained to the breaking point from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces continue to discharge vital service members under the outdated, outmoded “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Our allies have overcome this issue, facing no adverse consequences from lifting bans focused on soldiers’ sexual orientation. Great Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Israel, in total 22 of the 26 NATO countries no longer make sexual orientation a factor in whether people can serve in the military. Just a few days ago, Argentina and the Philippines also joined this list.
And, who are the countries that, in some way, ban gay and lesbian individuals from military service? Well, there’s Iran, North Korea, Russia, China…just to name a few. These are nations whose values and principles, let alone views on democracy, we do not share. Why then, when polls show the American people overwhelmingly support repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has it not changed? How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?
The 11 soldiers discharged in January were all from the Army. They included one human intelligence collector, one military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor transport operator and a water treatment specialist. These positions span the range of Army specialties, all of which cost money to train and are critical to effective military operations.
In total, over 12,500 service members have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since first implemented in 1993. A 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission report found that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” wasted over $360 million in taxpayer funds between 1994 and 2003. Over a similar time frame, the military also discharged 730 intelligence specialists, positions deemed “critical” by the military in combating the global fight against terrorism.
This issue has been studied repeated times, hundreds of pages and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to the detriment of our security and safety. The conclusion these experts all reached? Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not affect unit cohesion, wastes money and hurts military readiness.
It’s past time we lifted this ban, whether through congressional action on Rep. Tauscher’s “Military Readiness Enhancement Act” (H.R. 1283) or by Executive Order. I plan to make the release of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” data a monthly exercise until the policy is repealed.