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Congressional legislation would repeal "don't ask, don't tell"

Congressional legislation would repeal "don't ask, don't tell"

Congressional lawmakers on Thursday announced legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the military's ban on openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual personnel. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is scheduled to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Democrat Marty Meehan of Massachusetts on March 2. The proposal is already supported by a bipartisan coalition of congressional representatives, including Michigan's John Conyers and New York's Jerrold Nadler. Announcement of the bill follows release of a new Government Accounting Office report analyzing "don't ask, don't tell." The GAO report conservatively estimates that the gay ban has cost at least $191 million since its inception in 1993. The report's financial estimate, however, includes only costs associated with recruiting and training enlistees to replace those discharged under the ban. The GAO analysis does not include costs associated with discharging officers or the nearly 800 specialists with critical skills who have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Administrative costs associated with discharges are also not included in the GAO analysis. "Our homeland is more secure when every qualified, capable American who wants to serve is allowed to do so," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay military personnel. "The choice we now face is clear: Spend $191 million on firing patriotic Americans, or spend the same amount on a dozen Blackhawk helicopters or 800 sidewinder missiles. Our priority should always be defense and security. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is the best proposal to do just that." According to GAO, the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who "had skills in a foreign language that DoD had considered to be especially important." SLDN reported in 2004 that at least three dozen of those linguists spoke Arabic, Farsi, or Korean, languages the Pentagon acknowledges are underrepresented. Nearly 800 specialists, including intelligence analysts, divers, and combat controllers, were fired despite having "some training in an occupation identified as 'critical.'" Since 1993, more than 10,000 service members have been fired under the ban. During that same time period, many of the United States' closest military allies, including the United Kingdom and Canada, repealed their prohibitions on gay service personnel. "Congress and the American people now have the benefit of more than a decade of evidence indicting 'don't ask, don't tell,'" said Osburn. "Every American in every community benefits from the talents and skills of the more than 65,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members on duty in our armed forces." The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was adopted by Congress in 1993. Under the law, military personnel cannot reveal their sexual orientation to anyone, including family members, without risking expulsion from the armed forces. The GAO analysis was requested in 2004 by a bipartisan group of 22 members of Congress.

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