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.