Nearly 100 members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting detailed data on people discharged under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
It is an opening salvo by progressive House members in what is shaping up to be a new political battle in the new year, as the House prepares to debate the future of the controversial policy next month.
"We request that the Office of the Secretary of Defense provide data on the current number of DADT discharges since January 1, 2009 to the present, no later than January 15, 2010," read the letter to Gates, written by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). "In addition, we request monthly reports thereafter to Congress detailing the number of enlisted service members and officers discharged under the policy.... Through these monthly updates, Congress and the public will get a clearer picture of the continued costs and damage to our national security inflicted by this policy."
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been a source of controversy since it was enshrined into law in 1993 as a compromise to attempts by the Clinton administration to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces.
Since the law's enactment, "more than 13,500 service people have been discharged at a cost of over $400 million," Rep. Moran said in a statement earlier this week.
Among the signatories of the letter is Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), who is the lead sponsor of House legislation seeking to end DADT.
But debating the impact of DADT poses its own problems. For one, serving members of the military could face discharge if they testify in front of Congress about their experiences as homosexuals in the army. To prevent that, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has tabled a bill that would grant immunity to gay soldiers who testify in front of the committee.
That step, if approved, could lift some of the veil of secrecy and fear that hangs over gay soldiers in the US. A recent special report at CNN details the lengths to which gay service members have to go to keep their personal lives separate from their professional ones.
Even in his e-mail correspondence to CNN, the [unidentified gay] Marine said that he was using an extra small font in case someone peeking over his shoulder could see the words on the screen.
And for other gay and lesbian service members, the burden of trying to communicate with a partner back home-- and also having to lie to their fellow troops about their sexuality -- weighs heavily on their psyche.
"I always joke around with people, but it's true: When you're in the military and you're gay -- deployed or not deployed -- it's like you're basically living a double life," said another Marine, who also requested anonymity. "When you're overseas, that double life really comes out."
The full text of the letter from Rep. Moran to Secretary Gates follows below.
Dear Secretary Gates:
We write today with regards to the current prohibition on openly gay and lesbian service members in the military, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
This discriminatory policy results in the Department of Defense losing tens of millions each year in unrecoverable recruiting and training costs. The 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission’s report on DADT found that the Pentagon wasted over $360 million due to this policy from 1994 until 2003, the last year studied. Since its enactment in 1994, over 13,500 service members have been discharged under DADT, including 730 mission critical soldiers and over 65 Arabic and Farsi linguists vital to the war on terrorism.
To increase transparency on the effects the DADT policy is having on our military and by extension our national defense, we request that the Office of the Secretary of Defense provide data on the current number of DADT discharges since January 1, 2009 to the present, no later than January 15, 2010. In addition, we request monthly reports thereafter to Congress detailing the number of enlisted service members and officers discharged under the policy including their job specialty (MOS), time in the service and branch of the military. Through these monthly updates, Congress and the public will get a clearer picture of the continued costs and damage to our national security inflicted by this policy.
We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to a timely response.
James P. Moran