- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2011

This year or next, the U.S. military is supposed to begin a policy experiment - the accommodation of homosexual behavior within its ranks. The key word from the previous sentence is “experiment.” America’s history is full of policy experiments and adjustments, such as the repeal of taxes, younger drinking ages and smoking within public buildings. The recent policy accommodation of homosexual conduct should be viewed in the same light. Rather than relying upon the previous speculations of competing interest groups, the new Congress should collect data over the next several years and perform an evidence-based policy review.

For example, previous concerns about homosexual servicemen and HIV could be addressed and measured with accuracy. Evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggestedthat the rate of new HIV diagnoses among males who engage in sex with males (MSM) in the U.S. is more than 44 times that of other males. That report also notes that the MSM behavior group is the only risk group in which new HIV infections are increasing.

A former military serviceman offered me an external-factor explanation for the spread of HIV among homosexuals. This homosexual stated that while he was in the service, he had been responsible with his romantic actions. Regrettably, his HIV-positive partner had lied to him about having HIV, and eventually the partner transmitted the HIV to him. Vigilant behavior was negated by private lies.

This anecdote, together with the aforementioned statistical evidence, suggests that the political endorsement of military men engaging in sex with males will likely increase the number of military men who acquire HIV.Unfortunately, once military members contract HIV, they must be retained but only in non-deployable status, assigned to U.S. territory. This suggests that the number of military members available for deployments will decline as a result of accommodating MSM behavior.

A thorough policy review of homosexual accommodation should calculate the costs of military HIV treatments in addition to their deployment impact. Previous estimates have stated the cost of treating a person with HIV to be at least $25,000 per year. Indirect costs also could be estimated, such as lost duty time and additional testing. Will medical costs rise and deployment capability fall as a result of accommodation of homosexual behavior? Rather than conjecture, robust information could be obtained by evaluating military records.

A cost-benefit policy study also should include the military’s sexual assault statistics. As the New York Times reported, in 2009, 7 percent of the military’s sexual assaults were male-on-male acts. Given that the estimated population of homosexuals serving in the military has ranged between 2 percent and 3 percent, this data point hints that homosexual men in the military are two to three times more likely to engage in sexual assault than heterosexuals. Will the recent political endorsement of homosexual behavior lead to an increase in sexual assaults within the military, in either raw-number or percentage form? The Pentagon can collect data to provide the answer.

Congress also could analyze new data concerning sexual harassment and hostile work environments. Although many interest groups framed the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) as a case of minority discrimination, they failed to mention that the previous integration of groups such as racial minorities and women did not involve combining personnel with differing sexual preferences in areas of close body proximity, such as showers and barracks. In the former case, combined sexual preferences were not an issue. In the latter, separate living and bathing facilities accommodated the different sexual preferences. Under the new policy, the separation of sexual preference groups no longer matters. Surveys and data can measure the consequences.

The impact could be substantial. A swimsuit calendar hanging in a co-worker’s cubicle is grounds for filing a sexual-discomfort complaint. How much more discomfort will individuals feel now because they are forced to share close-proximity areas with persons who are interested in their sex?

There must be some reason why so many of the people actually affected by DADT were against its repeal. How can the administration “certify” without measurable data that no harm will occur from the new policy,? The opportunity to obtain data and assuage concerns - or reinstitute the ban - exists. The new Congress can either defer to the political desperations of the lame-duck Congress or follow the rational, scientific traditions of America’s enlightened Founding Fathers.Let us call for our representatives to make or approve decisions based on data reflecting actual experience in our own military, not theories based on political hype.

Lt. Col. Brian E.A. Maue is a member of the U.S. Air Force. His views are his own and do not represent any government agency.