The United States military continues to discharge gay and lesbian language specialists, despite a critical need for them, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group that provides assistance to gay and lesbian service members. As originally reported by Nathaniel Frank in the November 18 issue of The New Republic, SLDN was asked to provide legal assistance to nine linguists, trained in Arabic and Korean, during the fall of last year. SLDN reports that to date it has assisted a total of 24 linguists discharged under the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Nine of those assisted were trained in Arabic, eight in Korean, three in Farsi, and two each in Chinese and Russian.
"Our nation faces a serious shortfall in the number of trained professionals who can speak and decipher the languages critical to our national security," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "The continued firing of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans who are trained in those languages underscores the detriment of 'don't ask, don't tell' on our nation."
According to a Government Accounting Office study released in January 2002, the Army faces a critical shortage of linguists needed to translate intercepts and interrogate suspected terrorists. The report concluded that staff shortfalls "have adversely affected agency operations and compromised U.S. military, law enforcement, intelligence, counterterrorism, and diplomatic efforts."