Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network released a Pentagon statement that “includes the first language from Pentagon leaders suggesting that lesbian and gay service personnel should continue to use their skills in support of national security efforts, even after facing dismissal under the law.” The statement reads:
These separated members have the opportunity to continue to serve their nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way of civilian employment with other Federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector, such as with a government contractor.
The Pentagon’s statement recognizing gays marks a positive step forward. In the 1990s, the military’s policy was that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” claiming the prohibition was necessary for “group cohesion.” In March, backed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Gen. Peter Pace controversially claimed that the “military should not condone immoral acts,” referring to homosexuality.
But the Pentagon still will not call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since the policy was instituted in 1993, at least 11,000 servicemembers, hundreds of whom had key speciality skills such as training in Arabic, have been forced out of service. With our currently overstretched armed forces, the military could lure as many as 41,000 recruits if gays could serve openly.
With the State Department facing a dearth of Arabic translators, yesterday, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) urged the Department to hire bilingual gays expelled from the military as a result of DADT:
We are writing to urge the Department of State to take a specific step — the hiring of our unfairly dismissed, language-qualified soldiers — so our nation might salvage something positive from the lamentable results of this benighted policy. … under-investment in critical foreign languages presents an urgent and immediate threat to our national security, a threat that cannot be ignored while we train new foreign-language experts.
Read the Pentagon’s statement HERE.