As soon as I saw a headline at the Worldnutdaily that said “Expert on military readiness says budget’s burden for benefits will explode,” I knew that “expert” would be Elaine Donnelly. She’s not really an expert on this, of course. Sure, she runs a group called the Center for Military Readiness, but she has no background in the military and that group does little more than rant about women and gay people in the military. And she admits that she has no case to make:
The benefits now granted to same-sex couples as a result of the Supreme Court decision striking down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act will put an immediate strain on the defense budget, warns the Center for Military Readiness.
Wow, an immediate strain? This sounds serious. How much of a strain? No idea, actually.
So it will be an immediate strain, but she has no idea how much. Well let’s do some back of the envelope calculations, shall we? We’ll even skew the numbers so that every one is exaggerated to the other side. There are about 1.4 million people serving in the military and about 3-5% of the population is gay. The number of gay soldiers is likely lower than that because gay people were only recently allowed to serve openly, so let’s take it all the way to 5%. That’s about 70,000 gay soldiers. Not all of them are married, of course; in fact, about 2/3 of them are likely to be in states that do not allow same-sex marriage, so now we’re down to about 23,000 who are even eligible to be married. And only a relatively small percentage of them will actually be married, but let’s go with a whopping 50%, far higher than reality but we’re skewing all the numbers toward the worst possible outcome. That’s about 12,000 gay married couples in the military. And let’s assume a staggering $20,000 per married couple in additional costs, also higher than it is likely to be.
Donnelly said the U.S. military budget will be under pressure because of the Supreme Court’s actions, but it is hard to calculate how much.
“No one has estimated what the impact will be,” said Donnelly, “especially during a time when sequestration cuts, large and small, are affecting military families worldwide.”
That’s less than $250 million even by the most generous imaginable math. The defense budget is about $700 billion. That’s less than a tenth of a percent of the defense budget. Wow, what an “immediate strain.”