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3000 More Reenlistments Per Year
If Don't Ask Don't Tell Is Repealed


Gary J. Gates, PhD
Senior Research Fellow,
The Williams Institute

  LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA-In this year's State of the Union, President Bush announced his intention to add 92,000 new troops to the ranks of those on active duty military service. A new research brief from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law suggests that lifting the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy could be an important factor in meeting the President's troop expansion goal.

A recent survey of lesbian and gay veterans found that nearly one in five would have stayed in the military longer if they could be more open about their sexual orientation. The Williams Institute analysis uses that figure to estimate how many lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel have been lost each year because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Had the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy not been instituted in 1994, the report estimates that 4,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel would have been retained each year. Of that group, an average of 1,000 men and women were discharged each year as a direct result of the policy and 3,000 would likely stay in the military if they could serve openly.

According to Dr. Aaron Belkin, "These numbers confirm what scholars have long suspected, in particular that the 'Don't ask, Don't tell' policy is associated with the loss of qualified gay troops." Belkin, who directs the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of Santa California, Santa Barbara, added that the increased number of gays who would remain in uniform after the repeal of the gay ban may be offset by about the same number of heterosexuals who would leave the armed forces because they do not wish to serve with gays and lesbians. "That said," Belkin added, "it's a question of who you want representing the country: loyal gay troops, or intolerant heterosexuals."

To meet the President's goal, the military needs to add more than 18,000 new troops each year for the next five years. If patterns observed in 2004 were to continue for the next five years, the report estimates that retained LGB personnel would account for nearly one in six of the additional troops required.

"If the military needs more troops, it makes more sense to keep the estimated 65,000 well-trained and seasoned lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers they already have instead of lowering standards to recruit convicted felons, as a recent report shows they have been doing," observes study author Dr. Gary J. Gates. "Allowing lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals to serve openly could go a long way to meeting the President's directive to add 92,000 troops in five years."

Gary J. Gates, PhD
Senior Research Fellow, The Williams Institute
advancing critical thought in the field of sexual orientation and public policy
See his book at: www.urban.org/gayatlas