(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, which results in the discharge of any personnel who reveal their homosexuality, is "hampering military readiness," according to a University of California Santa Barbara research center.
According to the university's Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM), 244 medical specialists who had publicly disclosed their homosexuality were let go during the first decade that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was used by the Pentagon. The policy was implemented as a compromise in 1993 at the beginning of the Clinton administration.
"The consequences of shortfalls in medical specialists during wartime are serious," stated Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of CSSMM. "When the military lacks the medical personnel it needs on the frontlines, it compromises the well-being not only of its injured troops, but of the overextended specialists who have to work longer tours to replace those who have been discharged."
Belkin is calling for Congress to abandon the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
There have been reports by the Government Accountability Office and elsewhere, suggesting that the military is unable to fulfill its staffing needs, "especially in the area of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel," Belkin told Cybercast News Service .
The Pentagon recalled 260 medical personnel in 2004, according to Belkin. They were among the 5,600 individuals military-wide who were recalled that year from the Individual Ready Reserve, which allows the military to call upon civilians who were formerly in the military.
"You can see that if they had not been firing gays and lesbians all these years, the need for recalls would have been much less," Belkin said.
"That does seem to call into question the rationale for the (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) policy," he continued. "What I would suggest to Congress is that it may be time to reevaluate whether the benefits of discrimination outweigh the costs when we're hiring Arabic linguists and brain surgeons and other highly needed specialists."
But Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke, spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said the numbers should not be exaggerated.
"These discharges comprise a very small percentage of the total, and should be viewed in that context," Krenke told Cybercast News Service .
"Under the provisions of that law, these individuals were discharged from military service," she added. "Those who separate from the military are able to continue to serve their country and national security by putting their medical skills to use by way of direct or contract employment with other federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector."
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