Joe Mirabella

Why was the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" excluded from the 2011 budget?

Filed By Joe Mirabella | February 05, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Congress, Don't Ask Don't Tell, President Obama, Senate hearing, State of the union

All things cost money, even the implementation of new rules that would repeal the outdated and completely unfair Don't Ask, Don't Tell(DADT) policy that prevents gays and lesbians from servicing openly in the military.

One of the President's jobs is to present a budget to Congress every year. President Obama's budget was submitted this week, and much to the LGBT community's surprise, the costs for the State of the Union promised repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell were not included.

I asked the White House to explain the omission and this is what I was told.

"The President was very clear in the [The State of the Union] that he will work with the Secretary of Defense and military leadership to repeal this policy. This initiative entails a policy change and has very little budgetary impact and that is why it's not represented in the Budget."

That seems simple enough on the surface. OMB Director Peter Orszag made a similar statement to reporters on Sunday, "I don't think there's any direct funding -- there's no direct -- that's not something that would be reflected in the budget because there's not a direct funding implication."

However, there should be costs implementing a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The Military is all about training. Everyone is trained in every new policy or order handed down. Training costs money, but perhaps not very much money. Most of the training will likely be handed down via PowerPoint presentations and lumped together with other training. Perhaps that explains the "no direct funding" logic.

However there are additional costs to a repeal of Don't Ask Don't tell that would cost significant enough money to show up in the budget, and since those costs are not in this proposed budget it leads me to wonder if there will still be serious inequalities in the ways Gay and Lesbian soldiers are treated in a post DADT military or if anyone seriously believes this Congress has the will to repeal DADT?

Most military heterosexual families have access to a plethora of services and benefits. Basics like health insurance, death benefits, housing and moving costs, are provided to military families.

For example, in the President's proposed budget, there would be a projected decrease in military spending for Housing by hundreds of millions of dollars by 2011. Does that decrease take into account the housing needs of same sex partners and their children? It isn't clear since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell's costs are not outlined specifically in the budget.

The Department of Defense Budget Proposal Summary (.pdf) says:

The strength of our troops relies on the strength and stability of the families that support them, and the Budget supports these military families as our servicemembers answer our country's call to service. Overall, family support programs grow over 3 percent above the 2010 enacted level.

What's not clear at this point is how the military would define family if there was a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Would legal domestic partners and/or married same sex spouses be included in that definition? Presumably, the Obama Administration would have to use the same excuses it used to deny 9th Circuit Court employees access to same sex family benefits -- DOMA.

Is DOMA the real reason we don't see more detail on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the 2011 budget? Is DOMA the reason Congress is pushing back and lowering expectations about how quickly we will see a repeal? Will the Federal government be prevented from recognizing the families of gay and lesbian soldiers? Will the widow(s) or widower(s) of our lost soldiers be any better post repeal? Or will the costs of the repeal "have very little budgetary impact?" Will our families be left without the benefits they need to support our troops?

I'm not the only one to come to this conclusion. In fact, an anonymous source from the Department of Justice told Reuters, the DOD is planning a year long review of the repeal of DADT and "their review is expected to look at several sensitive issues, including whether the military should extend marriage and bereavement benefits to the partners of gay soldiers."

Judging by Tuesdays's Senate hearing on how to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, I'm not expecting any miracles from this Congress. I do not think our conservative Democratic majority is willing to take the steps they need to to give our soldiers the equality they deserve. Certainly not before an election where their majority is potentially under threat. Ironically the voters are way ahead of Congress on this issue. Unfortunately the legislative branch, both Democrats and Republicans are bitterly out of touch with the American people on this and most issues.

Despite the leadership shown by the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff who testified that he thought allowing gays to serve openly in the military was "the right thing to do," Senator McCain insisted a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell was a bad idea. Joe Lieberman chimed in with the suggestion that 60 votes would be necessary to pass a repeal.

Will the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell actually happen? Can our Congress catch up with the voting public who has long been on the side of our gay and lesbian soldiers?

I'm not holding my breath because the big issue no one wants to address is staring us all right in the face. The Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed for our military to treat all soldiers equally. Sure, we can baby step our way to equality by first repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and ignoring DOMA. But if we do, our military -- our country will by hypocritical. We would ask our soldiers to defend "freedom" without actually giving them access to the most fundamental of those freedoms -- to love whom you choose with the legal protections most heterosexual couples enjoy.

If anyone believes this Congress is willing to take that step, they are kidding themselves. With the Senate's tired 60 vote excuse, we know the Senate won't act in any meaningful way any time soon.

Meanwhile we all know Congress does not need 60 votes, they just need a spine and a budget that supports gay and lesbian soldiers and their families.

I have to at least applaud the President for stepping up and advocating for the LGBT community as he promised. He's certainly moving in the direction I hoped he would when I voted for him. He has inspired a national conversation that is long over due. I only hope he has the political power to move our nation's most disappointing majority in history in the right direction, because if he can't move them the people should. We should move each and every one of them right out of Washington, and get some people in there who can actually mover our progressive agenda forward.

UPDATE: I'm told the military may not be bound by DOMA because they operate under their their own set of rules and are not governed by the Justice Department, but that may not preclude the legislative branch for using that excuse as a political out. We should not let them.


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Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | February 5, 2010 1:11 PM

"Despite the leadership shown by the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff...."

EXCUSE ME?

WHAT "leadership"? The highest ranking uniformed officer of the most powerful nation on earth, the boss of 1.5 MILLION active duty servicemembers and another 850,000 reservists, implenting a current budget of $535 BILLION, very carefully, very deliberately, said, "speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief" and then ABANDONED his responsibility TO LEAD to a military closet door stopper er committee.

Contrast the Hollywood-bred but mild-mannered Johnny Wayne with little old New York State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson. You'll, no doubt, recall her heartstopping testimony before the vote on marriage equality there last December.

Despite noting that her own brother had been forced into exile by his homophobic parents where he died; despite noting that her beloved pastor sister would be upset by her vote; despite noting that she knew HALF of her constituents would, too, she said:

"Nobody elected me to be the moral arbiter of [anyone's] decisions. But they did ask me to provide leadership. ...if they pick me as their leader then they must trust that my decisions...are about TOTAL rights for ALL the people I serve."

Are we to believe that ADM. Mullen [OR Secty Gates who also abandoned HIS leadership responsibiities while pleading "personal" support] imagines that anything close to 50% of our armed forces are against gays serving? That WHATEVER others think justifies HIS refusal to lead? That he's more afraid of the political power of the American Taliban than the bullets and bombs of the Afghani Taliban?

As for that budget, and the arithmatic excuses given by Obama Inc. mouthpieces for not including ANYTHING about DADT in the budget, John Aravosis has already done some math that identifies the bullshit in their calculating calculations.

And I have a SINGLE example that does the same thing. Even in a $600-toilet seat culture, it's hard to fathom why the training of gay fighter pilot Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach cost the $25 MILLION that some suggest. But it certainly was in the millions and, if he is discharged, they'll have to spend ANOTHER $X MILLION of tax dollars to train his replacement. And, nearly twenty years ago, the GAO reported that the then-cost of DADT was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

As for benefits of whatever kind for gay servicemembers and their partners, like the US, Australia does recognize marriage equality. BUT gay couples are housed next door to straight couples in Australian military housing. If they can do it, we can.

And, NO, "the Defense of Marriage Act" need not "be repealed for our military to treat all soldiers equally." DOMA would not ipso facto forbid equal treatment of gay couples. [Nor would its repeal make marriage equality automatically legal in every state.] DOMA simply says that any use by federal agencies of "married" and "spouse" can only apply to "male-female" relationships. If current or to-be-rewritten military policies avoid those terms, they can put anyone in military housing they choose, etc, just as civilian corporations provide benefits to gay couples in multiple states where marriage equality is constitutionally banned.

The same would apply to government "survivor benefits." The apparently universal use of "spouse" would have to be eliminated, but, even now, a servicemember can name anyone the beneficiary of his/her military life insurance. Ending DADT would automatically end the fear most currently have of listing any non-blood relative same gender beneficiary [or "emergency contact"] for fear it might trigger a DADT investigation.

And I GUARANTEE you, combining trying to end DADT with the dog that will not hung—overturning federal DOMA—will KILL ending DADT.

As for "applaud[ing] the President for stepping up and advocating for the LGBT community as he promised," he stepped up more than a year after he EXPLICITY promised he would.

http://www.leonardmatlovich.com/barackobamaspromise.html

If he had KEPT his promise to begin the process "the day I take office," this totally needless study period would already be OVER. AND, the kind of moratorium on discharges while the study was/is going on that Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin is talking about would have prevented some 500 gay servicemembers from being discharged during that time; the kind of moratorium Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the Commander-in-Chief last summer to invoke, and he's STILL refusing.

As for your "hope he has the political power to move our nation's most disappointing majority in history in the right direction," you've apparently forgotten what Candidate Obama said about ending DADT: "All that is required is LEADERSHIP," and "Join with me, and I WILL provide that leadership."

In other words: "The fish rots from the top down."

I'd love to hear more about the update at the end of the article, regarding DOMA possibly not applying to the military. If DOMA does not apply to the military, then a simple repeal of DADT would seem to allow the same-sex spouses of members of the military to qualify for benefits. But I don't see anything in the text of DOMA to make me believe that it does not apply to the military.

"Most military heterosexual families have access to a plethora of services and benefits. Basics like health insurance, death benefits, housing and moving costs, are provided to military families.

For example, in the President's proposed budget, there would be a projected decrease in military spending for Housing by hundreds of millions of dollars by 2011. Does that decrease take into account the housing needs of same sex partners and their children? It isn't clear since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell's costs are not outlined specifically in the budget."

The current repeal bill HR 1283 'the military readiness enhancement act', is very narrow. It will repeal DADT. Soldiers can serve openly without fear of being kicked out; period. There are no added benefits for partners, children etc. As far as I know only spouses (married) receive base housing, health benefits etc. Sec. Gates did mention a cost study for the 2012 budget, but it wouldn't be in this 2011 proposal.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | February 5, 2010 5:17 PM

Correction:

And I GUARANTEE you, combining trying to end DADT with the dog that will not hunT—overturning federal DOMA—will KILL ending DADT.

Addendum: I'm doubtful that DOMA does not apply to the military. Here's the exact relevant text:

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

BUT, again, that doesn't preclude the military writing housing/benefits that do NOT use "marriage" or "spouse." [In fact, there appears nothing to preclude any OTHER government agency, INCLUDING THE IRS, to do the same.]

Two examples from the UCMJ, one of them negative; one positive:

CIVIL anti-sodomy laws have been overturned by the Supreme Court. But they are still on military books and entirely "legal," albeit very rarely applied anymore.

While a CIVIL law regarding hate crimes just passed a few months ago, the military has had one since President Clinton issued Executive Order 13140 in 1999 increasing penalties for hate crimes against gays in the UCMJ.

This raises the question of what OTHER changes in military policies Obama could simple order, though REPEAL of DADT is not one of them [while freezing discharges unequivocally is].

I guess they didn't put in money to fund the implementation of the repeal of DADT because DADT hasn't been repealed yet. That would be counting their chicks before they've hatched.