The number of troops dismissed last year is less than half the total number of discharges in the year preceding the Sept. 11th 2001 terrorist attacks.

The US Department of Defence dismissed 612 service members last year under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, Pentagon officials confirmed late Tuesday evening.

Pentagon officials released the data following remarks by General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supporting the ban and referring to lesbian and gay personnel as “immoral.”

“The Pentagon’s data shines a bright light on the hypocrisy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“When military leaders need the talent, skills and qualifications of gay personnel, dismissals decline.

“Then, during peacetime, the dismissal rate climbs again.

“The Pentagon’s own data shows that, during times of war, when unit cohesion is most important, fewer gay troops are dismissed.

“In fact, lesbian and gay Americans are making important contributions to our national security. The ban on their service, and not their service itself, is what erodes cohesion most.”

During fiscal year 2005, the Pentagon dismissed 742 service members.

The 612 men and women dismissed this past year represent the fewest annual discharges since the law’s enactment.

The Pentagon provided no comment on the data upon its release.

A service-specific breakdown of dismissals was not made available by Pentagon officials, nor was a breakdown of specialists dismissed under the law made public.

“Especially today, when the military faces well-documented recruiting and retention woes, the loss of even one skilled service member is one too many,” said Osburn.

“The 612 men and women fired certainly include troops with valuable skills. The loss of those personnel is disgraceful, and Congress should repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all.”

Over 10,000 servicemen and women have been dismissed for being gay, bisexual or lesbian since the policy was introduced in 1993.

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