US Armed Forces look to foreign recruits – as long as they are straight

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

America’s military leaders have approved a one-year pilot programme that aims to recruit up to 1,000 foreign nationals to plug chronic staff shortages.

The Defence Department has identified a shortage of doctors, nurses and linguists and will encourage people who are in the US on student and temporary work visas and those granted refugee or political asylum to sign up.

The Pentagon said there are shortages of doctors, nurses and linguists.

At least 60 Arab linguists have been dismissed from the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation in recent years.

Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as a major factor in the US government’s failure to thwart the September 11 attacks.

The independent September 11 commission came to the same conclusion.

The ban on openly gay, bisexual or lesbian people serving in the US Armed Forces, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” came into force in 1993.

If army personnel are discovered to be LGB then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask military personnel about their sexual orientation.

A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office reported that the Pentagon had fired 322 language specialists who “had skills in a foreign language that Department of Defence had considered to be especially important.”

A spokesperson for US President-elect Barack Obama has said that no decisions had been made about the strategy or timing of an attempt to end the ban on openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people serving in the country’s Armed Forces.

The Washington Post reported last month that it could be as late as 2010, but the transition team spokesperson said: “These decisions will not be made before the full national security team is in place.”

The new administration’s Secretary of Defence will be the present incumbent, Richard Gates.

Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay, has said he thinks there will not be an attempt to overturn the ban until after US troops have pulled out of Iraq.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll published in July found that three-quarters of Americans think that openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be allowed to serve in the military.

64% of Republicans and nearly two thirds of self-described conservatives backed a change in the current law, as did 57% of white evangelical Protestants and 82% of white Catholics.

The poll of 1,119 Americans revealed that support for gays in the military has steadily increased, from 44% in 1993 to 62% in 2001 to 75% today.

It was Republican opposition that forced then-President Bill Clinton to abandon his pledge to allow gay people to serve and signed into law the compromise known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

More than 12,500 gay men and women have been discharged under the current law, at an estimated cost of more than $363 million (£182.6m).