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Lantos urges language jobs for military’s ousted gays

By rgordon
Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 1:14 pm in Uncategorized.

The military may feel that homosexuals aren’t worthy of its ranks, but U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, doesn’t think that should stop any other government agency – and the U.S. Department of State in particular – from taking advantage of the human capital.

In a letter sent to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte today, Lantos called for the State Department to address its need for diplomats with foreign language skills by tapping the pool of soldiers dismissed from the military because of their sexual orientation under its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Lantos, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, authored the letter with U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Lantos and Ackerman called the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy “one of the most regressive, counter-productive policies we could ever imagine.

“We are writing to urge the Department of State to take a specific step – the hiring of our unfairly dismissed, language-qualified soldiers – so our nation might salvage something positive from the lamentable results of this benighted policy,” their letter continued.

The two note that the Government Accountability Office has reported that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has resulted in the dismissal from the military of more than 300 soldiers with “critical” foreign language skills, including Persian and Arabic.

“This is an appalling indictment of an absurd and highly biased policy that cripples our national security, particularly while dozens of our troops are dying each week in the Middle East and South Asia,” the letter said. “Worse, many of these patriotic individuals, whose skills were either acquired or honed at taxpayer expense, upon their discharge from the military are snapped up by contractors who then offer their translation services back to the United States Government, at a considerable mark up, of course. Thus, the taxpayer is compelled to pay for these essential services not once, but twice.

“While we lament our government’s anachronistic and short-sighted adherence to the bigoted ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, we see no reason why our nation’s diplomatic mission should suffer for the military’s lack of vision,” they added.

The letter highlighted the need for skilled diplomats with critical foreign language skills, pointing out that the 9/11 Commission drew a connection between under-investment in critical foreign languages and national security threats. In Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in February, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice emphasized the department’s need for translators, prompting Ackerman to ask about hiring translators discharged under the military’s policy.

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