That statistic comes to you from Servicemembers United, which opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and seeks its repeal. It’s lower than in previous years: There were 627 such discharges in 2007, for instance. From a Servicemembers United press release:
“As expected, this record low in total annual ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ discharge numbers reflects a continuing downward trend, as military commanders continue to ignore this law that is clearly outdated and which impairs their unit readiness,” said Alexander Nicholson, a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the current Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “But this new number still means that 443 lives were unnecessarily turned upside down in 2009, 443 careers were unfairly terminated, and military units unexpectedly lost a valuable asset 443 times last year as two wars raged.”
According to the group, that figure doesn’t include discharges from the reserves or the National Guard, so the full number of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges is higher. Whether the law actually gets repealed this year or not, last month Defense Secretary Robert Gates took unilateral measures to curb its enforcement.
Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall last month introduced legislation that would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in part because the policy has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 17 years and negatively effected the lives of thousands of Americans.
“I feel very strongly about this. More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade,” he said. “These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”
Udall said that government accountants have estimated that the policy has cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation. The process of identifying gay members and discharging them is costly and counterproductive, he said.
“We train these men and women and prepare them for duty. It’s a major investment in time and energy and money.Then we spend all this time and energy and money discharging them.”