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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 4, 2005

Bill would end military 'don't ask, don't tell' policy

Measure follows report showing that policy has cost $191 million

Washington, D.C.--A bill to end the military ban on openly gay servicemembers was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 2 by Massachusetts Democrat Marty Meehan.

The bill, titled the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005, comes on the heels of a February 23 report showing that the �don�t ask don�t tell� policy has cost the government at least $191 million from its beginning in 1993 through fiscal year 2004.

The report, by the congressional General Accounting Office, was commissioned by 22 House and Senate members, both Democrats and Republicans.

It calculated the cost of recruiting and training replacements for the 9,488 gays and lesbians discharged during that period. The figure does not include the administrative costs of the discharges.

The GAO also examined the effects of discharging gay servicemembers with critical skills such as linguists.

�By discharging competent servicemembers at a time when our troops are already stretched thin, the �don�t ask don�t tell� policy incurs hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary costs and purges highly skilled, critical personnel from the service,� said Meehan in a statement accompanying his bill.

�It is as senseless and as counterproductive as it is un-American,� said Meehan. �The policy of the United States should be to fight the war on terror, not to advance the agenda of discrimination.�

If passed, the legislation would replace the current policy with one of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and would also allow those already discharged to return to service. It also requires the Department of Defense to update policies, procedures, and methods to ensure that the nondiscrimination policy is enforced.

The bill has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee, of which Meehan is a member.

That committee is chaired by Republican Duncan Hunter of California, with Ike Skelton of Missouri as the ranking Democrat. Ohioans Tim Ryan(D) of Youngstown and former Dayton mayor Michael Turner (R) are also on that committee.

According to Meehan spokesperson Matt Vogel, the bill had 40 co-sponsors at introduction. All initial co-sponsors are Democrats, the most senior being Reps. John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler of Michigan and New York, respectively. The only Ohio co-sponsor is Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland.

��There are several Republicans who have committed to be on the bill, but not at its initial introduction,� Vogel noted.

As the nation is having a general discussion about restating a military draft to ensure enough personnel to fight a long term war, Meehan compares the number of gay discharges to the number of people the military says it is coming up short.

�The Army is actively seeking almost 800 truck drivers to serve in Iraq, yet they have dismissed over 100 for being gay,� Meehan told the Armed Services Committee last July. He pointed out other areas where the need for new recruits would be greatly lessened if there were no gay and lesbian discharges.

��Seventy MPs [military police] have been fired in the past two years [for being gay],� said Maeehan, �so the Army is calling up 72 from the Individual Ready Reserve.�

Meehan told the committee that while 5,600 reservists were called back to active duty and 10,000 more troops had to be authorized for next year, nearly 10,000 have been discharged for being gay.

�The conventional justification for �don�t ask don�t tell� is that allowing gays to serve undermines military readiness,� said Meehan. �Now we have the numbers to prove that these discharges do more harm than good to our readiness.�

In January 2003, another opponent of the policy, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, sponsored a bill to reinstate the draft. The primary purpose of his bill was to show that the privileged class doesn�t have to lose children to the battlefield as long as military service is all volunteer.

But he also noted that �don�t ask, don�t tell� and a draft cannot co-exist, since anyone wishing to avoid induction can just say they are gay. This violates the �don�t tell� provision, even if they are heterosexual.

Rangel was promoting �shared sacrifice� which he said includes gays and lesbians serving openly. The bill died in the Armed Services Committee.

 

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