Facts and Figures on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Statute

Print Date: 
August 4, 2006
Denise Bonilla, Newsday Staff Writer


According to a February 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, American taxpayers spend more than $30 million each year to train replacements for gay troops discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" law. The total cost reported since the statute was implemented is nearly $200 million dollars. The actual cost is significantly higher, as this figure does not include administrative and legal costs associated with investigations and hearings, security clearances, and military schooling of gay troops such as pilot and linguist training. Government Accountability Office, February 2005. http://www.gao.gov/htext/d05299.html

A Blue Ribbon Commission sponsored by the University of California determined that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy cost the Pentagon at least $363.8 million to implement during its first ten years. The Commission, which includes former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and other military experts, was formed after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a February, 2005 report that was based on questionable data and methodology. GAO's estimate, the Commission found, was 91 percent too low. Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, February 2006. http://www.gaymilitary.ucsb.edu

Discharge data

Discharges of gay service members under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" increased annually (except for 1999) until 2002, when they started decreasing each year. This coincides with military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. A total of 11,092 gay and lesbian service personnel have been dismissed under the statute 1993-2005. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. http://www.sldn.org/templates/dont/record.html?section=42&record=1455

According to the February 2005 GAO report, seven hundred fifty-seven (about 8 percent) of these separated servicemembers held critical occupations ("voice interceptor," "data processing technician," or "interpreter/translator"), as defined by the services. Also, 322 members (about 3 percent) had some skills in an important foreign language such as Arabic, Farsi, and Korean. Government Accountability Office, February 2005. http://www.gao.gov/htext/d05299.html

Polling data

Since early polling on the issue of gays in the military, the percentage of Americans who support gays serving in the military has steadily risen. In 1992 57% of those surveyed thought gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve. In 1996 that number rose to 65% and in 2001 to 72%. Recent surveys show up to 79% of Americans support gays serving openly. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. http://www.sldn.org/templates/action/record.html?section=143&record=1900

Gay and lesbian servicemembers and veterans

The Urban Institute estimates there are 65,000 gay and lesbian service members in uniform and nearly 1 million gay and lesbian veterans in the U.S. today, according to 2000 census data. Urban Institute, Gary Gates, September 2004.

Gay and lesbians serving in other militaries/organizations

Twenty-four foreign militaries – including Israel, Great Britain and Canada – have lifted their gay bans with no difficulties. American soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have served alongside foreign troops from countries without gay bans, almost certainly including some openly gay foreign troops. Military Education Initiative. http://www.military-education.org/dadt/index.html

America's other national security agencies do not discriminate against gays. Open gays serve in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA).

Disproportionate impact on women

Women accounted for 31% of "don't ask, don't tell" discharges, but comprise only 14% of the military. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

From the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a research institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

From a 2000 study on the Canadian military, which lifted their ban in 1992:

* Lifting of restrictions on gay and lesbian service in the Canadian Forces has not led to any change in military performance.
* Self-identified gay, lesbian, and transsexual members of the Canadian Forces contacted for this report who have served since the ban was lifted describe good working relationships with peers in supportive institutional environments where morale and cohesion are maintained.
* The percent of military women who experienced sexual harassment dropped 46% after the ban was lifted. While there were several reasons why sexual harassment declined, one factor was that after the ban was lifted women were free to report assaults without fear that they would be accused of and subsequently discharged for being a lesbian.
* Before Canada lifted its gay ban, a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers found that 62% said that they would refuse to share showers, undress or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier. After the ban was lifted, however, follow-up studies found no increase in disciplinary, performance, recruitment, sexual misconduct, or resignation problems.
* None of the 905 assault cases in the Canadian Forces from November, 1992 (when the ban was lifted) until August, 1995 involved gay bashing or could be attributed to the sexual orientation of one of the parties.

From the U.S Navy:

(1997 was the first year of available data):

1997: 413
1998: 345
1999: 314
2000: 358
2001: 290
2002: 222
2003: 187
2004: 177
2005: 177

Data was compiled by Staff Writer Denise Bonilla.