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Nathaniel Frank on HuffPo: 'While the Pentagon Studies, More Gays Fall'

Yesterday, The Palm Center’s Nathaniel Frank continued his blunt criticism of the delay on addressing the repeal of DADT. He reminds us that as hands are wringing on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon and the White House, discharges continue. (Huff Post):

As the Pentagon begins its year-long study of the impact of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the unaffordable talent loss among gay troops continues to pile up. An Infantry company commander and West Point graduate who deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan and received three bronze stars for his service is right now facing discharge for allegations that he is gay. The officer, who commanded two 170-soldier companies, was called by his superiors “an exemplary commander” whose “desire to lead Soldiers enthusiastically and with uncompromising standards is un-matched by his peers.” (He has asked for anonymity since his case is not yet resolved.) Word is also breaking over at Bilerico that a ROTC cadet is facing discharge because she refused to recant a statement about her sexual orientation, and may face a back pay demand of $80,000 for the cost of her tuition.

To these latest casualties of DADT, Rep. Joe Wilson’s comments yesterday on the House floor will come as a damning, and misguided, slap in the face: The 13,500 discharges under the policy, said Wilson, are “not a significant loss” and most did not have much experience anyway. He said he believes the current policy is working.

So much for the West Point grad’s 12 years of Army leadership, or Major Almy’s thirteen years of selfless service in the Air Force, and the toll taken on their hundreds of soldiers and Airmen when they were yanked out of their leadership rolls. It wasn’t his sexual orientation that disrupted the force, says Almy. “What had a far greater impact on my unit’s cohesion was the disruption to the mission after I was fired, and my being replaced by a very junior officer, who was not adequately prepared for the job.” Almy said he has no idea what Joe Wilson is talking about. “To say that this policy is working is to completely discredit my four deployments to the Middle East and my thirteen year career as a decorated officer. To say DADT is working is to completely discredit the service of the 13,500 patriotic Americans discharged under this law, the estimated 4,000 who choose each year not to re-enlist because they no longer want to live a lie, and the untold thousands who never choose to enlist because of DADT.”

And all the while the military has welcomed with open arms a record number of convicted felons, gangbangers and skinheads into its ranks. Stats from The Palm Center:

The data indicate that from 2003 through 2006, the military allowed 4,230 convicted felons to enlist under the “moral waivers” program, which enables otherwise unqualified candidates to serve. In addition, 43,977 individuals convicted of serious misdemeanors such as assault were permitted to enlist under the moral waivers program during that period, as were 58,561 illegal drug abusers. In the Army, allowable offenses include making terrorist threats, murder, and kidnapping.

Other folks making the cut to protect the nation include enlistees convicted of robbery, vehicular manslaughter, and receiving stolen property. How is this acceptable as discharges of experienced, law-abiding gay and lesbian service members continue? As Frank continues, he notes that the planned study of the impact of DADT repeal, and calls for more time and attention to examine the “problem” resembles the delay and “reboot” process of the GOP on health care reform.

The military’s answer to the “problem” of gay troops is to study the issue for another year. The idea comes from the Commander-in-Chief, but it’s a favored tactic of both conservatives and bureaucrats to park disfavored ideas in a study commission, with the intent of delaying until politics and fatigue kill reform altogether. Notice the Republican tactic on healthcare reform: that we need to “start over” and look at it anew, incorporating more Republican ideas (never mind that the GOP track record of total inaction when they did have power tells you their real intention is to do nothing). To that line, President Obama rightly retorts that “We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for the past year but for decades.” Where is this retort when it comes to gays in the military, which the Pentagon itself, as I point out this week in The New Republic, has been studying for half a century?

Yet despite the ridiculous nature of many of McKeon’s questions, most of them have, in fact, already been answered. Peruse, for instance, this just-released 5-page memo chronicling twenty studies across fifty years that already assess the impact of gay service on military readiness. As summarized in an article by an Active Duty Air Force Colonel in Joint Force Quarterly, the military journal published for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly.”

It’s time for the policy to go, but it’s also time to instruct those who wish to delay and deny that there is sufficient evidence available to any doubters to try to derail Congressional action on repeal now.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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