Study: Cost of policy on gays much higher than believed
WASHINGTON — A study by the University of California found that the cost of the Defense Department’s ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military is almost double an earlier government estimate.
The report finds that the cost of separating 9,500 servicemembers between 1994 and 2003 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has cost $363.8 million, or $173.3 million more than the $190.5 million that the Government Accounting Office estimated in February 2005, a University of California news release says.
The study, conducted by a blue ribbon commission of professors, legal experts and former defense officials, was based on the premise that the GAO’s model for estimating the costs of the gay ban was flawed, the study says.
Gary Gates, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said the GAO report looked at how much the Defense Department had to spend to replace servicemembers who were discharged for being gay, but that does not tell the whole story.
“We think about the soldiers less as a widget and more of an investment,” Gates said.
When the military discharges a servicemember prematurely for being gay, it loses money it has invested in that servicemember for training, Gates said.
For example, the military may spend $30,000 to train a servicemember under the expectation that the servicemember will serve for about six years, according to the panel.
But if that servicemember is discharged from the service for being gay only six months out of basic training, the military will only have recouped about 8.5 percent of its investment, translating into a loss of about $27,450, the study says.
Moreover, servicemembers who are discharged for being gay have on average more training than other servicemembers, Gates said.
“We are firing the best and the brightest when we do this,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., said the study “paints a more complete picture of the costs to taxpayers of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”
Meehan, who helped the study’s authors get information, introduced a proposed law last year that would repeal the Defense Department’s ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.
“We should not be turning away brave and qualified men and women who want nothing more than the honor of serving their country,” he said. “Our military readiness is being hurt by this policy, and it is long past time that we act to repeal it.”
But the Defense Department says the number of discharges for homosexuality is relatively small.
“These discharges represent 0.3 percent of overall discharges and should be viewed in that context,” said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman.
The servicemembers were discharged under a federal law on homosexuals in the armed forces, Krenke said in an e-mailed response to questions.
“We are complying with this statute,” she said.
Not all gay servicemembers are forced out of the military.
Jarrod Chlapowski, a former Army linguist, said he voluntarily left the service over “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“One moment of vindictiveness could be the end of a career. You cannot retire, and all the work that you put into it is gone,” he said.
Asked if he would rejoin the Army if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were repealed, Chlapowski said, “Absolutely.”