WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon discharged some 250 service members under the soon-to-be-defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in fiscal year 2010, according to numbers released Thursday by a group of gay troops and veterans, even though top brass ordered commanders to effectively stop enforcing the ban on openly gay troops during that time.
A total of 261 service members, including 11 in the Coast Guard -- which falls under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security -- were tossed out in fiscal 2010, a tally by Servicemembers United found. The group said it based its numbers on internal Defense Department statistics that are not routinely released publicly.
The discharges last year represented an all-time annual low since the policy began in 1994. More than 14,000 troops -- or 14,316 including National Guard, according to the group’s unofficial count -- have been discharged under the policy.
President Barack Obama signed DADT’s repeal into law in December, but the policy remains in effect until he, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certify that that the Defense Department is ready to implement the change without hurting military readiness or effectiveness. That won’t happen until all the troops have undergone training that is already underway.
But halfway through the fiscal year, long before DADT got the official thumbs-down from Congress, Gates changed the way the policy was implemented. The idea was to make it harder to toss out gay service members who were otherwise doing their job, in part by leaving decisions about discharges to generals or admirals high up in the chain of command.
Yet despite the loosening of restrictions, the equivalent of two Army companies were given their walking papers.
"While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high,” Servicemembers United's executive director, Alexander Nicholson, said. "Despite this law clearly being on its death bed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because of this policy."