In January, Sandy Tsao, an army officer, told her superiors that she is gay — a violation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law. On May 5, Tsao received a handwritten letter from President Obama stating that he is “committed to changing our current policy,” but that “it will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action).”
Today, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about his views on DADT. McCain did not commit to changing the policy, saying, “in all due respect, right now the military is functioning extremely well” without openly-gay service members. McCain concluded that the policy “is working well”:
McCAIN: But in all due respect, right now the military is functioning extremely well in very difficult conditions. We have to have an assessment on recruitment, on retention and all the other aspects of the impact on our military if we change the policy. In my view, and I know that a lot of people don’t agree with that, the policy has been working and I think it’s been working well.
McCain’s statement defending the efficacy of DADT comes in the wake of news that the military is about to discharge Dan Choi — a gay Arabic speaker –- simply for being openly gay. Choi’s dismissal is “the first known case” of a “mission-critical specialist” being discharged under DADT by the Obama administration. Last week, Choi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow why the policy is problematic:
CHOI: But the biggest thing that I’m angry about is what it says about my unit. It says that my unit suffered negative good order — negative actions — good order and discipline suffered. That’s a big insult to my unit. I mean, all the insult that the letter can do, to say that I’m worthy of being fired, you know, that’s nothing comparing to saying that my unit is not professional enough, that my unit does not deserve to have a leader that is willing to deploy, that has skills to contribute.
Choi isn’t alone. Since 1994, DADT has resulted in the discharge of more than 13,000 military personnel across the services, including approximately 800 with skills deemed “mission critical,” such as pilots, combat engineers, and linguists. According to a 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office, “the cost of discharging and replacing service members fired because of their sexual orientation during the policy’s first 10 years totaled at least $190.5 million — roughly $20,000 per discharged service member.
It’s unclear how these facts led McCain to conclude that the policy is “working well.”