Alex Blaze

GAO Releases Numbers on Cost and Class Impact of DADT

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 21, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, economic policy, gays in the military, military, officers, repeal, spending

I know everyone's pointing to the GOA report on DADT, gasping that a government that says that it can't afford a decent health care system (never mind that single-payer would cost less than what we have now) would spend $193.3 million in five years directly on discrimination, but that number doesn't bother me too much. Weren't economists just arguing that the US government should be spending more money instead of less, what with the recent drop in aggregate demand and the lack of investment in the American economy by the private sector? While it's not much in the grand scheme of things and not the most efficient way for the government to spend that money, I can think of a few things worse than than training, housing, and food for several thousand working class people that the US government could spend money on.

This chart is interesting to me, though. I never knew the break-down when it came to officer versus enlisted DADT discharges, and I'm surprised that only 2% of people discharged under DADT were officers. You wouldn't know it if you watched the cable news, where it seemed like more than two-thirds of people discharged were officers. I guess the target audience for cable news programs prefers to hear about oppression from people who went to college.


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Rick Sutton | January 21, 2011 3:45 PM

For anyone, like me, calculating your 2010-pay-2011 federla taxes due in a couple of months:

If this chart, and the nuimbskulls behind it, don't make you mad, you don't have a pulse.

Why are our tax dollar funding this kind of drivel?

By pushing a button at the Pentagon, someone could determine the number of DADT discharges: by service branch, gender, age, rank, location.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 21, 2011 4:07 PM

One of the more interesting comments I heard on an MSNBC piece on the subject today concerned the possibility that because the DADT policy remained in effect for the replacements, the replacement was also gay/lesbain, and hence the spectre of multiple processing before a certifiably straight serviceperson was obtained.

Kinda reminds me of those centrifuges and filters that continuously refine and purify uranium until you get weapons grade.

The numbers are also certainly underestimated. They obtained exact figures for the recruitment and retention costs (mostly bonuses paid for specific career fields), but the training costs are just averaged estimates.

What is ALSO visibly INVISIBLE is the significant number MORE of women who were investigated, Court Martial and discharged.

The number of women discharged between 2004/2009 was 1,242, w/an active duty female population of aprx 20%. According to 2004 Defense Manpower statistics show that officer and enlisted women on active duty increased from 13 percent to 15 percent from 1995 to 2004.

STILL a significant minority in the Armed Forces. Women have been CRITICALLY targeted under old DADT Regulations.

I wonder how the other numbers work out in comparison to people in the military.

Actually, it's clearly visible in the picture posted

34% of the discharges were women, whereas they make up about 14% of the force

Neither your surprise about the small percentage of officers discharged nor your theory of what cable news audiences "prefer" is justified by reality.

In the first case, such a low percentage of officer dismissals merely reflects the fact that the longer one succeeds at hiding the better one gets at it. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach had been in the Air Force some 19 years before finally being outed by an apparent psychopath. The difference between him and Dan Choi is that Dan chose to out himself.

As for who appears on TV news, that's the result of the virtually microscopic number of people who are willing to "go public," and while it's varied over the 36 year-history of the formal fight against the ban, both mainstream and gay media have always taken whomever they could get, NOT chosen officers over enlisted. Throughout that time, the majority of those who came forward were enlisted, from the first, Leonard Matlovich in 1975, through Keith Meinhold in 1992 when, on the same day, the FIRST officer, Tracy Thorne-Begland, outed himself publicly to EIGHT of the 9 gay vets arrested at the White House in November. The 9th and only former officer Dan Choi was on TV over the last two years more often than anyone else not BECAUSE he was an officer but because he was a good interview, willing, and led various protests. In the interim, a book by fellow arrestee but former enlisted Justin Elzie has come out and so he's been interviewed by the media.

The fact is, at least in relation to the ban, MSM is no more "classist" than they were in 1975 when Leonard was on the cover of Time, the front pages of newspapers from the New York Times down, and every existing national news show of the era. That network television made a movie about his "enlisted" life 17 years before they made a movie about officer Grete Cammermeyer's life was simple chance.

As for the report itself, contrary to the impressions of some, it is not the first the GAO has published, but it's bound to be just as wrong as the first. After the GAO's 2005 report, a "blue ribbon panel" including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, and Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin, did a study of the study and found that the GAO had underestimated the costs between 1994 and 2003 by AT LEAST NINETY-ONE PERCENT.

Based on the panel's estimates at the time of, again, AT LEAST $40 million a year, over 17 years it would come to at least $688 million. And, of course, that doesn't take into account the cost of discharging over 100,000 gays over the 50+ years BEFORE DADT.

I hope we'll see another "reality check" on this newest report. Until then, no one should read the current GAO report without comparing it to the methodology of the panel's 2006 report available online at:

Thus far, I've identified at least one major flaw—that 3664 does not include discharges from the Coast Guard, and only some discharges from some years from the Reserves and National Guard. Servicemembers United discovered last year that the numbers typically released by the Pentagon each year didn't include Coast Guard and Reserve/National Guard discharges. While they weren't able to uncover total Reserve/NG numbers, they found 21 more discharges in 2008 JUST from the Coast Guard. Were such indefensibly careless undercounting applied to last year, Dan Choi would "statistically" still be IN the Army National Guard.

I find it interesting that the Marines have been the most resistant to repealing DADT, but they have the smallest percentage of actual discharges. I wonder why.

They are the smallest service (ca. 200.000), so that's to be expected. If you put the discharges in relation to the total number of people, the Air Force seems to be the most gay friendly.

While patterns have fluctuated since the formal ban on gays was created during WWII, the Navy & Marines have traditionally had the most discharges, in either real numbers or relative to, as Steve noted, their size as a force [tho, during the years covered in this study, the Army led in percentage while in the early years of DADT the Air Force did]. In 1966, the Navy ALONE discharged 1708, some 500 more than in the highest year for ALL branches under DADT [though, as I noted above, totals are typically undercounts], and, between 1980 and 1990, while only approximately 27% of all the forces in size, the Navy accounted for 51% of all discharges.

The investigative service for the Navy and Marines is now called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and they have a heinous history of abusing gays, worse overall probably than their counterparts for the Army & Air Force, though all were guilty of not just homophobia but sometimes also illegal methods.

Interestingly, Tuesday's episode of the CBS television megahit "NCIS" dramatized a gentler side that showed more about the presumed future than the present, and certainly not the past. It managed to reference both the federal hate crimes law, and the evolution to open service. While no
"Brokeback Mountain," over 20 million Americans watched a very pro-gay episode with a remarkable, touching ending.

Viewable for free online at: