Discharges from the military under the anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell " (DADT) policy declined by nearly a third in fiscal year 2002, the lowest level of discharges since 1996. It was the first full reporting year under the Bush administration.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) released the information Tuesday in its annual report on DADT, Conduct Unbecoming. "The time has come to do away with the Pentagon's charade and make sure no one loses his or her career at the hands of anti-gay discrimination," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn.
Gay discharges dropped from 1,273 in the fiscal year that ended in September 2001, to 906 in 2002. The Navy and the Air Force recorded the fewest number of discharges since DADT became law in 1993. The Army, the largest military branch, topped the list with 429 discharges.
SLDN also notes a decline in the number of reports they receive of harassment within the ranks. However, serious levels of harassment continue, with 405 incidents reported in the Army, 230 in the Navy, 76 in the Air Force, and 57 in the Marines. SLDN chastised the Pentagon for failing to implement an Anti-Harassment Action Plan adopted in 2000. "During time of war, when good order and discipline is vital, it is irresponsible for the Pentagon to not take its commitment to end harassment seriously."
The report noted the increasing reluctance of commanders to discharge openly gay soldiers, and the acknowledgement that they can serve without undermining unit cohesion. Still, discharges continue at the rate of nearly three a day.
Osburn pointed out the absurdity of the military in discharging trained Arabic language specialists last year, even as the possibility of war loomed and the Pentagon acknowledged a shortage of Arabic speakers.
"The time has come to lift the ban and welcome all qualified patriots to our struggle for freedom, regardless of their sexual orientation," Osburn said. SLDN recently launched a five-year program to repeal DADT.
Osburn also criticized the Bush administration for renominating Gen. Robert T. Clark for promotion and command of the Fifth United States Army. Clark was commander of Fort Campbell in Kentucky when PFC Barry Winchell was murdered in his sleep, the victim of a gay bashing.
SLDN has maintained that Clark's failure in leadership contributed to the antigay attitude at the base. It opposed his nomination during the last session of Congress and has called for hearings on the promotion.