Gates Pressed for Data on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Discharges

Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:35pm

Updated: 6:12 p.m.Nearly 100 lawmakers on Tuesday pressed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to release data on the number of gay and lesbian soldiers still being discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell— policy.Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who wrote the letter to Gates signed by 96 Members, warned that lawmakers are prepared to take legislative action mandating monthly reports on discharge data if the Pentagon does not comply with their request. Moran has already been rebuffed twice this year by the Defense Department for monthly reports detailing the rank, time in service and branch of service members discharged under the 1993 policy.“It’s neither fair to the taxpayers nor beneficial to our national defense for the Defense Department to keep this data out of the public’s reach,— Moran said in a statement. So far, he said, more than 13,500 soldiers have been discharged at a cost of more than $400 million.Specifically, their letter seeks all 2009 data relating to “don’t ask, don’t tell— discharges across all branches of government, followed by monthly updates starting in January. Lawmakers give the Defense Department until Jan. 15 to provide the data. The Defense Department is already required to provide Congress with annual data on “don’t ask, don’t tell— discharges, but Moran and others say that data provide little detail and are not timely. Lawmakers last got specific information in March, when the Army gave Moran data for January, which was the last month the policy was in place under the Bush administration.“After that, no more came and they refused to answer inquiries, and they have just been completely mute,— Moran spokeswoman Emily Blout said. “For whatever reason, they have not been responding. It’s a problem when Congress is looking to this issue next year.—Letter signers include Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), the lone Republican. House Democratic leaders appear poised to move on repealing the policy in 2010, though the specific timing and strategy is unclear. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said last week that leadership has not yet “had real discussions about who takes that up first or whether we need to take it up. We’ll see what the Department of Defense does. Secretary Gates, I know, is working on that.—Frank, one of three openly gay Members, has said to expect a repeal of the policy to be attached to the 2010 Defense reauthorization bill. “Whichever chamber takes up military authorization first, it will come up on that,— he said last week.Separately, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was sending a request to Gates asking that he fund a survey of soldiers’ attitudes on the issue, updating an earlier survey done by the Rand Corp.Levin, who plans to have a hearing on the issue in January, said heplans to take the issue “step by step.—