WASHINGTON, D.C. — New data has been released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee showing the U.S. Armed Forces loosened recruiting guidelines to allow entry to applicants with serious criminal histories, including sexual offenders, kidnappers and arsonists.

The new data, which focused on the Army and Marine Corps, comes to light as the anti-gay, Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy continues to be enforced, denying military entry and service to otherwise qualified LGB Americans.

Between 2006 and 2007, the number of “morals waivers” issued to recruits convicted of manslaughter, rape, kidnapping and making terrorist threats nearly doubled. The request for the information was made from the Oversight and Reform Committee’s chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

“This data shines a bright light on the outrageousness and absurdity of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “On the one hand, the Pentagon is discharging highly-qualified, honest, law-abiding men and women because they are gay, while on the other hand granting waivers to rapists, killers, kidnappers and terrorists. Granting waivers for child molesters and rapists to serve while discharging lesbians and gays is utter madness. Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will reduce the need to grant felony waivers.”

While the military was allowing serious criminal offenders into the nation’s peacekeeping and defense ranks, the Pentagon also discharged nearly 700 service members found to be in violation of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

In contrast, the military issued 511 felony “morals waivers” in 2007, including three soldiers convicted of manslaughter, one soldier convicted of kidnapping or abduction, seven soldiers convicted of rape, sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, incest or other sex crimes, three soldiers convicted of indecent acts or liberties with a child, and three soldiers convicted of terrorist threats including bomb threats

“Keeping ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ on the books hardly helps the military’s personnel crisis. In fact, if Congress got rid of the law there would be a need for fewer waivers,” Sarvis said. “It is in our national security interests to get rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

Ban opposed in Congress
In related news, on Apr. 16 Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, urged Congress to “get rid of outmoded social restrictions” such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and, in written testimony, called the policy “counterproductive to military readiness.”

His remarks came before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. The hearing was held to discuss the issue of readiness decline among our nation’s ground forces.

“First, repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” Korb said. “The Army and Marine Corps cannot afford to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of qualified men and women who want to serve.”

He went on to note that “over the past 10 years more than 10,000 personnel have been discharged as a result of this policy, including 800 with skills deemed “mission critical,” such as pilots, combat engineers, and linguists. These are the very job functions for which the military has experienced personnel shortfalls.”

“Mr. Korb’s remarks are a reminder that many leaders within the defense community support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Sarvis. “As he rightly pointed out, there is growing concern among the national security establishment that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ forces our military to dismiss talented troops at a time when we are struggling to recruit and retain service members.

“Mr. Korb should be applauded for his willingness to advance the national conversation about this issue and for suggesting common sense ways Congress can act to address our readiness shortfalls.”

info: www.sldn.org