The GAO Releases a Report on the Cost of Implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
From 2004 to 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that implementing the DADT policy cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $193.3M. Of the approximate total, $185.6M was used to replace discharged servicemembers and $7.7M used for administrative costs. The estimated cost of one DADT discharge was $52,800. Below is a general breakdown of demographics for LGB servicemembers discharged under DADT from 2004 to 2009:
- 98% (3,599) Enlisted
- 2% (65) Officer
- 66% (2,422) Male
- 34% (1,242) Female
- U.S. Army: 48% (1,774)
- U.S Navy: 25% (913)
- U.S. Air Force: 15% (540)
- U.S. Marine Corps: 12% (437)
These numbers do not take into account the decade since the policy was implemented in 1994.
The summary of the GAO’s findings follows:
According to GAO’s analysis of Defense Manpower Data Center data, 3,664 servicemembers were separated under DOD’s homosexual conduct policy from fiscal years 2004 through 2009. Of the 3,664 separations, 1,458 of these separated servicemembers held a critical occupation or an important foreign language skill as determined by GAO and the services. More specifically, 1,442 (39 percent) of the servicemembers separated under the policy held critical occupations, such as infantryman and security forces, while 23 (less than 1 percent) of the servicemembers held skills in an important foreign language, such as Arabic or Spanish. Seven separated servicemembers held both a critical occupation and an important foreign language skill. However, the number of separated servicemembers with critical occupations could be an underestimation because of a number of factors. For example, the Air Force provided the occupations eligible for enlistment bonuses from fiscal years 2006 through 2009, but could not provide this information for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 because the Air Force’s data were incomplete.
Using available DOD cost data, GAO calculated that it cost DOD about
$193.3 million ($52,800 per separation) in constant fiscal year 2009 dollars to separate and replace the 3,664 servicemembers separated under the homosexual conduct policy. This $193.3 million comprises $185.6 million in replacement costs and $7.7 million in administrative costs. The cost to recruit and train replacements amounted to about $185.6 million. In calculating these costs, GAO included variable costs, such as recruiting bonuses, and excluded fixed costs, such as salaries and buildings, to the extent possible because according to service officials there would likely be no significant increase in fixed costs when recruiting and training a relatively small number of replacement personnel. Each of the services tracks and maintains data in different ways, which in some cases affected their ability to provide GAO with only variable costs. For example, while the Army and Air Force could disaggregate variable and fixed recruiting and training costs, the Navy could not disaggregate variable and fixed recruiting and training costs, and the Marine Corps could not disaggregate variable and fixed training costs. To the extent that recruiting and training cost data provided by the services contain fixed costs, this is an overestimation of replacement costs. Administrative costs amounted to about $7.7 million and include costs associated with certain legal activities, such as board hearings, and nonlegal activities, such as processing separation paperwork. The Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps provided GAO with administrative cost estimates; however, Navy officials explained that changes in separation processes from fiscal years 2004 through 2009 prevented them from providing an accurate administrative cost estimate in time for the data to be included in GAO’s analyses. Because the Navy did not provide these data, GAO’s calculation is an underestimation of DOD’s likely total administrative costs. Because of data limitations, GAO was unable to determine the extent of the overestimation of the replacement costs, the underestimation of the administrative costs, or the resulting net impact on GAO’s total calculations.