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The Cost of Victory?

President Trump Bans Transgender Military Members

Anne Fey

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On July 26, 2017, President Trump tweeted the following:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [people] in the military would entail. Thank you[.]”

This policy change is unsound, both financially and morally. President Trump’s claim about “tremendous medical costs” doesn’t add up, and his insinuation that patriotic transgender individuals are somehow inhibiting the United States’ ability to reach, “decisive and overwhelming victory,” is stomach-turning and untrue. Additionally, his decision to break this news over such a casual forum as Twitter, with hardly any warning to his staff and top military officials further proves his lack of leadership capabilities.

In fact, because of the strange way that he released this statement, the public was confused about how, or if, his policy would come to fruition. While Twitter is effective in reaching the public quickly, it does not dictate military policy.

The military was similarly unsure of the Tweet’s legitimacy. Shortly after Trump’s tweets, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford stated in a letter to Service Chiefs (etc.) that, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,” and, “in the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

Last week, however, President Trump followed through by giving directions to implement the new policy. On Aug. 25, Trump signed a directive declaring that the military will no accept transgender recruits. Whether or not current transgender military members will be allowed to continue serving under this new policy is unclear. So far, Defense Secretary Mattis is holding off on discharging current members.

President Trump’s actions follow the rejection of an amendment in June which proposed to exclude transgender-specific medical expenses from the military budget. The amendment was defeated by a 214-209 vote, with 24 Republicans crossing partisan lines to vote against the amendment and in favor of transgender inclusion.

This decision has been discounted by President Trump, as another part of his directive dictates that gender-confirmation surgeries will no longer be paid for by the military. Moreover, he has raised the stakes by not only challenging medical coverage, but the very inclusion of an estimated 15,500 transgender individuals (numbers are according to a UCLA study) who serve honorably, not to mention those brave individuals who want to serve in the future.

The policy that President Trump is setting in motion will send huge ripples throughout the military as a new level of complexity will impede recruitment processes and as experienced members could be forced to leave their stations.

The cost alone of potentially discharging and replacing these experienced transgender military members is estimated to be $960 million. Litigation presents another financial burden; already two lawsuits have been filed against President Trump: one by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, and the other by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. The projected upper-bound estimate to provide medical care to transgender troops in the next ten years? $8.4 million.

It should be noted that Congresswoman Hartzler claims the price for transgender-specific medical costs to be $1.35 billion. Estimates are difficult when so many factors can come into play and when demographic information for LGBTQ people is often unknown. The RAND Corporation; however, which is nonpartisan, agrees that Hartzler’s number is sixteen times too high even according to the highest estimates.

Still, to only debate and compare the numbers of each policy is to ignore the fact that the issue is at heart not only fiscal, but social and moral.

Both sides agree that social agendas need to be kept out of military policy so that the United States can focus on victory and being the best that we can be.

To conservatives, this means not letting the progressive agenda get in the way of military efficiency. Many conservatives are operating on the premise that being transgender could affect deployability, or in extreme cases, that gender dysphoria betrays greater psychological issues that could present issues on the ground.

Fifty-six retired generals and admirals have taken a stance and rejected this in a letter published by the Palm Center.

They predict that, “this proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.”

General Dempsey calls transgender service members, “a blessing, not a burden,” and Admiral Mullen states that “the military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness.”

People against the ban see President Trump’s policy as a social agenda of its own.

Ashton B. Carter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Obama, has commented:

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military. There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service.”

As more details unfold, it is impossible to separate the military’s policy from its social implications. Whatever parameters are set by President Trump’s policy will not just set the course for the military, but will also be part of an ongoing story of how transgender individuals are accepted in our nation. Dunford’s initial call for respect becomes increasingly relevant as both officials and we citizens must decide how to react to these alarming developments.

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