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'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Has Cost $364M

Discharging troops under the Pentagon's policy on gays cost $363.8 million over 10 years, almost double what the government concluded a year ago, a private report says.

The report, to be released Tuesday by a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission, questioned the methodology the Government Accountability Office used when it estimated that the financial impact of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was at least $190.5 million.

"It builds on the previous findings and paints a more complete picture of the costs," said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., who has proposed legislation that would repeal the policy.

Congress approved the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 1993 during the Clinton administration. It allows gays and lesbians to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps as long as they abstain from homosexual activity and do not disclose their sexual orientation.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has represented service members who left the military under the policy, estimates the Pentagon has discharged more than 10,000 service members for homosexuality since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went into effect in 1994. The number of discharges has gone down in recent years.

In February 2005, the GAO said the financial impact could not be completely estimated because the government does not collect financial information specific to each individual's case.

Cautioning that the figures may be too low, the GAO said the federal government spent at least $95.4 million to recruit and $95.1 million to train replacements from 1994 through 2003 for the 9,488 troops discharged during that period because of the policy.

The university study said the GAO erred by emphasizing the expense of replacing those who were discharged because of the policy without taking into account the value the military lost from the departures.

So, the commission focused on the estimated value the military lost from each person discharged. The report detailed costs of $79.3 million for recruiting enlisted service members, $252.4 million for training them, $17.8 million for training officers and $14.3 million for "separation travel" once a service member is discharged.

Commission members include former Defense Secretary William Perry, a member of the Clinton administration, and Lawrence Korb, a former assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration, as well as professors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

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