January 21, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
GAO: ‘Don’t Ask’ cost nearly $200 million from FY-04 to FY-09

Discharges of gay service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in recent years cost the U.S. government almost $200 million, according to the Government Accountabiilty Office.

The GAO report, published Thursday, found that the military’s gay ban between fiscal years 2004 and 2009 cost around $193.3 million to implement — or about $52,800 for each discharge.

The report found that 3,664 service members during this time were separated under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and that 1,458 of these troops held a critical occupation or an important foreign language skill.

“More specifically, 1,442 (39 percent) of the servicemembers separated under the policy held critical occupations, such as infantryman and security forces, while 23 (less than 1 percent) of the servicemembers held skills in an important foreign language, such as Arabic or Spanish,” the report states.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the report demonstrates the cost of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to U.S. taxpayers.

“[The] GAO report underscores that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law not only deprives the military of the qualified Americans it needs, but has also been a huge waste of taxpayer dollars on replacing patriots lost under this discriminatory law,” he said. “These numbers remind us why it’s time to move forward on certification so we can begin implementing repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and make a smooth transition to open service.”

On Dec. 22, President Obama signed legislation allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but the law won’t be off the books until the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the U.S. military is ready for open service.

GAO issued the report in response to a request from Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif), who during the last Congress as chair of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee held hearings on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In a statement, Davis said the report “only further solidifies my belief in the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

“Clearly this was the right thing to do,” Davis said. “No longer will American taxpayers continue to pay to throw out patriotic servicemembers who want only to serve their country.”

Download a copy of the report here.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • If injustice isn’t a good enough reason to support equal treatment of gays and lesbians, then perhaps conservatives will be moved to do so for economic reasons. Just as DADT costs hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, so do laws denying legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples and our children. It is insane to continue to let religious based bigotry stand in the way of constitutional guarantees of equal treatment under the law. Let your voice be heard and sign Rainbow Law’s marriage equality petition!

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