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Military Discharges Due to Homosexual Policy Continue to Drop

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2005 – Military discharges based on the Pentagon's homosexual conduct policy have dropped to their lowest rate since 1996 and make up a small fraction of unprogrammed separations, according to Department of Defense officials.

David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for manpower and personnel, released the statistics in response to a Government Accountability Office report charging the DoD policy strips the military of troops trained in critical skills and costs millions of dollars to recruit and train replacement troops.

The report, released Feb. 23, traced servicemembers separated from the military since fiscal 1994, when the then-Clinton administration implemented the so- called "don't ask, don't tell" policy, through fiscal 2003. During that period, the report noted that 9,500 military members were discharged under the policy.

Of that total, 770 were discharged in 2003, the lowest rate since 858 were discharged in 1996.

Pentagon officials said the number continued to drop by another 15 percent in fiscal 2004, to 653. They pointed out that since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the discharge rate has consistently dropped and now stands at nearly one-half the 2001 number, 1,227.

According to the GAO report, some 8 percent of the troops separated for homosexual conduct through 2003 held critical occupational skills that qualify for selective re-enlistment bonuses. Almost one-third of that group322 servicemembershad foreign language skills in Arabic, Farsi or Korean, the report said.

The costs of these separations are not clear, because DoD does not collect data about administrative costs associated with the separations. However, the GAO report estimated that over the 10-year period covered in the report, the cost to recruit replacements could feasibly have run as high as $95 million, calculated in 1994 dollars. Training costs for those replacements was estimated at $48.8 million for the Navy, $16.6 million for the Air Force and $29.7 million for the Army.

In the DoD response to the report, Chu noted the relatively low discharge rate based on the homosexual conduct policy, which makes up about 10 percent of unprogrammed separations for the period covered in the report. Far higher, he pointed out, is the discharge rate based on factors such as drug use, serious offenses, failure to meet weight standards and pregnancy and parenthood issues.

The report noted that passing the statute that implemented DoD's homosexual conduct policy, Congress "indicated that because of the unique nature of military life, the military services may need to treat individuals who engage in homosexual acts, as defined by the statute, differently than they would be treated in civilian society."

DoD "seeks to implement the federal statue concerning homosexual conduct in the military in a fair manner, treating every servicemember with dignity and respect," Chu said in response to the report.

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