January 22, 2011

The Dollar Value of Discrimination

The recent repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy, which prohibited openly homosexual men and women from serving in the armed forces, was a clear victory for civil rights and equality before the law.  While to many it is obvious that DADT's demise will improve force readiness and competence - as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines with critical skills who also happen to be gay are no longer drummed out of the service - a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that this policy shift is likely to have financial benefit as well.

In Military Personnel: Personnel and Cost Data Associated with Implementing DOD's Homosexual Conduct Policy, the GAO determined that 3,664 servicemen and -women were expelled from the armed forces between 2004 and 2009 - nearly 40% of whom held skills deemed critical.  Using constant, 2009 dollars and standardized figures for separation and replacement - roughly $52,800 per individual - the Government Accountability Office estimates that the United States military spent more than $193 million dollars enforcing DADT.  If one uses the same average cost amount for the more than 13,000 active servicemembers who were forced out under the policy from its inception in 1994 through 2009, the money devoted to discriminating against qualified Americans working to serve their country totals over $686 million.

One can certainly argue that that amount is a drop in the enormous bucket of the overall Pentagon during the time Don't Ask Don't Tell was in force, but it is equally certain that that sum was money poorly spent.  We are well rid of DADT - despite Republican Duncan Hunter's efforts to block enactment of the repeal - and if anyone remains doubtful about that fact, perhaps they can console themselves that, at a minimum, ending discrimination against gays in the military is the fiscally responsible thing to do.


lokywoky said...

That money was only a proverbial 'drop in the bucket' so to speak - but that cost is only for the investigation and discharge proceeding. They did not address the other real cost - that of the training and provision of the discharged servicemember and the cost of recruiting, training and provisioning their replacement - if indeed a replacement could be found. But of course, the years of experience could never be replaced.

I think if anyone undertook that analysis they would find the actual dollar cost to be in the billions, not merely a few millions.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach said that his training alone was worth over $2 million over the years, and he had almost 20 years of service in when they began his "investigation". That $2 million was not included in the cost of his discharge investigation. Thankfully - he will be able to remain in the service, as he was not discharged before the repeal.

PBI said...

Excellent point. I suspect it wasn't included because of the wide range of tenure and great variety of specialized training within the pool of expelled servicemembers. It was probably simply too difficult to quantify on any sort of aggregate basis in a way that would be credible/defensible. Nonetheless, it should very definitely be remembered!