Monday, August 16, 2010

Mission-Critical Troops Continue to Hemorrhage Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

New data released today finds the military continued to fire mission-critical specialists for being lesbian, gay or bisexual in fiscal year 2009. The data show that LGB discharges included 8 linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides, 7 combat engineers, 6 missile artillery operating crew members, and 1 member of the Special Forces, among others.

The Director of the Palm Center - the research institute at the University of California that released the data today - Aaron Belkin said, “These data show, yet again, that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” undermines national security. Why are we firing linguists and infantrymen in the middle of two wars?” A sample of the complete data set is posted at www.palmcenter.ucsb.edu.

According to the Palm Center, “the data confirm a long-term trend, and a 2005 Government Accountability Report found that the military fired 757 mission-critical specialists, including 322 linguists, in the first decade of “Don¹t Ask, Don’t Tell.” JD Smith, co-Director of OutServe, said that today’s news shows how “Don¹t Ask, Don’t Tell” jeopardizes the safety of the troops. Smith said, “these discharges put our lives at risk. As leadership continues to fire gay service members in critical career fields, it is the troops on the ground who will pay with their personal safety.” OutServe is the first-ever organization made up exclusively of currently-serving lesbian, gay and bisexual troops. It now includes more than 500 members.

The new data were collected by the Defense Manpower Data Center and made available by the House Armed Services Committee. They were submitted to the Committee in compliance with current law which requires each of the services to disclose on an annual basis the number of service members who have left the service, why they left and what jobs they performed.

“The next few weeks will determine the future of “Don¹t Ask, Don’t Tell” stated Christopher Neff, Palm Center Deputy Director. “After 13,500 discharges, hundreds of millions of dollars and 17 years, it all comes down to the Senate.” The Senate is expected to address the policy shortly after it reconvenes from the August recess on September 13.

The Palm Center also noted that the data showed disproportionate discharges on the basis of race and gender. In the Navy, two officers were discharged in FY 2009 and both were Asian. In the Army, of the five Officers discharged, two were African American, one was Asian and two were white.

Although women comprise only 14% of the Army, lesbians received 48% of the Army’s “Don¹t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges in FY 2009. In the Marines, women comprise just 6% of the force, but received 23% of discharges under the policy. The numbers represent a dramatic shift from last year, when women received 36% of Army discharges and 18% of Marine Corps discharges. In the Air Force, women comprise 20% of the service but received 51% of “Don¹t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges in FY 2009. Women comprise 14% of the Navy but received 27% of the discharges last year.

Take action today by calling both your Senators and tell them to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and follow the lead of Senator Carl Levin on any attempts to strike repeal or weaken the language. It’s important that your Senators hear from you early and often.

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