The military threw out hundreds of service members in 2009 for violating its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, including disproportionate numbers of women and minorities and dozens of service members in “mission critical” positions, according to a new analysis of military data.
The Pentagon honorably discharged 428 service members for violating the ban on openly gay troops in 2009, according to statistics reviewed by the nonpartisan Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara studying the impact of gays in the military. The figure is down from 619 service members discharged for violating the policy in 2008.
Women account for 14 percent of Army soldiers but received 48 percent of the Army’s “don’t ask” discharges in 2009, the study said. Six percent of the Marine Corps is female, but women accounted for 23 percent of its discharges. The Navy discharged only two officers for violating the policy in 2009, and both were Asian. The Army discharged five officers — two were black, one was Asian and two were white, the Palm Center said.
Last year’s “don’t ask” discharges accounted for about one-tenth of 1 percent of all separations and did not affect the military’s readiness, said congressional aides familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak on the record.
But the list included eight linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides and one member of the Army’s special forces, positions considered “mission critical” by the Government Accountability Office. Gay rights groups have long argued that the military’s decision to discharge experienced, highly specialized service members costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in military training costs.
Activists believe that at least 13,500 service members have been discharged in violation of “don’t ask, don’t tell” since the policy began during the Clinton administration.
The Palm Center reviewed military data provided to lawmakers regarding the number and type of separations by service members. The data does not include names but lists specific reasons for the discharges.
The Pentagon did not return requests for comment.
The Senate is expected to include a repeal of the policy when it passes its version of the annual defense spending bill after the August recess. The House included a repeal in its version earlier this year. A Pentagon study of the impact of repealing the policy is due to President Obama by Dec. 1.
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