Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow first reported on the case of Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who received notice last September that he was being discharged from the Air Force under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
As Maddow reported, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach defended America’s skies in the days after 9/11, and flew combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which he won the Air Medal for heroism. He has logged over 2,000 hours in the air, over 1,400 of those in fighters, and over 400 of those in combat. Fehrenbach has eighteen years’ worth of experience flying fighter jets.
To put the rank stupidity of the military’s anti-gay policy in dollars and cents terms, the amount of taxpayer investment represented by Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is enormous. In firing him, not only do the U.S. taxpayers lose the money that was spent training him, we lose the money we have to spend training someone else to replace him, as well as the hundreds of other pilots he could have trained. It’s like flushing tens of millions of dollars down the toilet.
In March, CAPAF’s Lawrence Korb wrote about the costs of DADT:
Since 1994, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy 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. These are the very specialties for which the military has faced personnel shortfalls in recent years.
In 2005, the Government Accountability Office found that 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. This amounts to roughly $20,000 per discharged service member.
Analysis of GAO’s methodology, however, shows that the $190 million figure may be wildly off the mark. A recent study by the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that GAO’s analysis total left out several important factors, such as the high cost of training officers — commissioned soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen with several years of service experience — who were discharged due to their sexual orientation. When these costs were factored in, the cost to the American taxpayer jumped to $363.8 million — $173.3 million, or 91 percent, more than originally reported by GAO.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong in any era, but in a financial climate like today’s, it’s just staggeringly irresponsible.
Conservatives have criticized many of the choices Secretary Gates has made in regard to key defense programs and expenditures — yet here we have a way to save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in defense costs, by repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s interesting that when offered a choice between service to fiscal responsibility and service to their own discomfort with homosexuality, some choose the latter.