February 14, 2006

Study doubles Pentagon’s gay policy cost estimate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's costs for firing
service members for homosexuality under its "don't ask, don't
tell" policy were nearly twice as high as a government estimate
made last year, an independent commission said on Tuesday.

A University of California commission of military experts
said it cost at least $363.8 million to implement the policy
from 1994 to 2003. That is 91 percent more than the $190.5
million estimated a year ago by the Government Accountability
Office, Congress' investigative arm.

Opponents of the policy -- a compromise forged when former
President Bill Clinton tried to lift the Pentagon's ban on gays
serving in the military -- said the report showed more reason
to end restrictions entirely.

Under the policy, gays could serve if their sexual
orientation remained secret and if they refrained from
homosexual conduct. More than 10,000 service members have been
fired for homosexuality since 1994, the panel said.

"By discharging competent service members at a time when
our troops are already stretched thin, the 'don't ask, don't
tell' policy incurs hundreds of millions of dollars in
unnecessary costs and purges highly skilled, critical personnel
from the service," said Rep. Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts
Democrat, who requested last year's GAO report.

The commission of military experts included William Perry,
defense secretary in the Clinton administration, and Lawrence
Korb, assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration.

The commission said it used conservative assumptions and
was not able to use several cost categories in its estimate, so
its figure "should be seen as a lower bound estimate."

The commission said it decided to review last year's
findings because the GAO acknowledged it did not include some
costs of training officers who were discharged, and it appeared
to use cost figures for training enlisted service members that
were too low.

While the GAO emphasized costs of replacing individuals
fired under the policy, the commission said it focused on how
much value the military lost from premature discharges which
would vary with the duration of service.

A service member discharged shortly after completing
$30,000 worth of training would pose a greater loss than one
discharged shortly before retirement, the panel said. It used
average service times for personnel in various positions for