Citing ‘costs’ and effect on ‘readiness’, the Trump Administration has decided to reinstate the ban on transgender military personnel.
Make no mistake, this is a policy in search of a rationale.
The Pentagon’s own study from the center-right leaning Rand Institute concluded:
“little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness” resulting from Obama’s policy.
Some sources are citing the ‘prohibitive costs’ of gender reassignment surgery as the main barrier to implementation. But again, Rand disagrees:
Although it’s impossible to know how many members would need gender-transition-related services, it’s likely that only a fraction would want to transition while in service—Rand suggested that somewhere between 29 and 129 people per year would make those requests. The “upper bound” of estimated requests was “0.1 percent of the total force,” Rand wrote. The expected costs related to these services were between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year.
Even if every conceivable trans identifying soldier requested this surgery it would still be a drop in the bucket for the total operating costs of the DoD health care system, let alone, the DoD itself. Let’s say the upper limit (6,000 soldiers) is right, and every single individual wants the most expensive surgery possible ($50,000) the effect would be an additional .06% ($300 million) of the $50 billion annual operating budget of the Military Health System. To put this number in perspective, the bloated Joint Strike Fighter program has already run $1.9 trillion in cost overruns during it’s 20 year history and is in danger of getting cancelled by a bipartisan majority in Congress and a skeptical Trump Administration. Scrapping just 3 of the next 10 planes the Pentagon has ordered would be enough to cover every conceivable gender reassignment surgery. Not to mention, discharging existing soldiers identifying as transgendered will cost $110 million in lost basic training (70k per soldier) alone, not to mention the massive replacement costs for discharging officers and enlisted soldiers with education and experience. Not only does this shift fail to save money or improve readiness, it likely wastes a whole lot more and weakens it.
Lastly, this recreates the circumstances that led to the repeal of this policy and DADT in the first place. Readiness and effectiveness are actually weakened when soldiers have a secret identity they cannot divulge to their superiors. It gives those superiors, foreign intelligence operatives, terrorists, and other soldiers possible blackmail material that jeopardizes our security. Not to mention the mental health toll it takes on a soldier. Our most infamous example of an American soldier struggling with gender identity is Chelsea Manning, who committed one of our largest security breaches in history during a period of heightened mental illness and stress caused by this emotional struggle. We can disagree (or agree) with her actions, while conceding that her treatment at the hands of the military under this policy was shameful, inhumane, and weakened our national security and image abroad. Why take a massive step backward now?
This policy directly contradicts commitments Donald Trump made on the campaign trail (no surprise there) and the testimony Gen. James Mattis gave to Congress during his confirmation hearing:
‘asked..by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) whether there’s anything innate about being a woman or identifying as LGBT that would prevent someone from serving in a lethal force, Mattis flatly said, “No.”
Costs? Readiness? Nah. Just plain old bigoted right wing red meat served to the base to operate as yet another distraction for this floundering Presidency. The thing is, I believe Donald Trump when he says he isn’t bothered by GLBT Americans. He sincerely doesn’t care. Neither does James Mattis. Which is what makes this policy shift so blatantly political, a short term shot in the arm to the base at the expense of our nation’s long term commitment national security commitments and stated values. Enacted by men who are openly aware that it is wrong.