Military Gay Ban Expensive
Enforcing the Congressional ban on gays in the military cost $364 million from 1994 to 2003, substantially more than originally calculated.
The financial costs to the U.S. military for discharging and replacing gay service members under the nation’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are nearly twice what the government estimated last year, with taxpayers covering at least $364 million in associated funds over the policy’s first decade, according to a University of California report scheduled for release today.
Members of a UC-Santa Barbara group examining the cost of the policy found that a Government Accountability Office study last year underestimated the costs of firing approximately 9,500 service members between 1994 and 2003 for homosexuality. The GAO, which acknowledged difficulties in coming up with its number, estimated a cost of at least $190.5 million for the same time period. The new estimate is 91 percent higher.
Presuming that this study is more accurate than the GAO report, it still does not amount to much money in the context of a defense budget that will be $426 Billion in the current fiscal year–excluding additional costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, it’s paltry even in context of less controversial policies. As noted several paragraphs into the WaPo story:
According to Pentagon figures provided to the GAO last year, there were 9,501 people separated from the military for homosexuality from 1994 to 2003, compared with 26,446 separated for pregnancy, and 36,513 separated for failing to meet weight standards.
So, we separate more than 2-1/2 times more soldiers for pregnancy and nearly 4 times more for failing to meet arbitrary weight standards as for homosexuality. And most of those soldiers are in non-combat jobs where being pregnant or overweight is a non-issue. (Females are excluded from virtually all combat arms positions and the administrative “tail” of the military is roughly nine times size of the combat “tooth.”)
Furthermore, one can not consider cost in isolation:
Charles Moskos, a sociology professor at Northwestern University and an architect of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said in an interview yesterday that he believes allowing openly gay people into the military — especially combat arms positions — could cause the services to lose many more recruits who would be uncomfortable living in close quarters with them. He said the loss in financial costs does not outweigh the costs of forcing people to live in intimate circumstances with openly gay people. He also said he believes many of the discharges are the result of people claiming to be gay to get an honorable discharge from service early.
Moskos is the preeminent military sociologist of his generation and hardly a right winger. He’s likely quite right in his assessment here. Like it or not, a substantial number of the type of men who sign up for infantry duty would not want to serve with homosexuals.
None of this is to say that the ban on gays is the right public policy. It may well be that, as with black soldiers half a century ago, the military should absorb a short-term blow to its readiness in order to get a long term increase in the qualified pool of applicants. And that’s aside from the fact that removing the ban may simply be the right thing to do.
But let’s not pretend that $34 million a year is a lot of money in the scheme of a half trillion dollar budget and that there is nothing gained from that expenditure.