Wednesday morning brought a tweet storm from U.S. President Donald Trump renewing the ban on transgender military service members.
Trump’s tweets said the U.S., “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 in the military would entail.”
“This was a decision about military readiness,” Sarah H. Sanders, incoming White House Press Secretary said.
The President’s own party isn’t backing him.
“I think you ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
“At the end of the day I want a strong vibrant military but I want to be fair and the best way to do this have a hearing, not a tweet,” saidU.S. Senator Lindsey Graham.
PENTAGON TRANSGENDER SERVICE POLICY
Trump’s tweets upend current Pentagon policy.
Last June, the U.S. military decided to allow existing transgender service members to serve openly. A 2017 Rand Corporation study estimates there are some 2500 active duty personnel who fit that description, though the number could be as high as 6600.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis sent out this memo in June announcing a delay in allowing new transgender service members into the military and extending the Pentagon review to make their servant permanent until 2018.
Wednesday, the Pentagon referred all questions to the White House and issued a statement saying: “We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military.
We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future,” said Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis.
As to Trump’s concern about the “tremendous medical costs” of allowing transgender service members to serve, that same 2017 Rand study estimates that less than one tenth of one percent of the military would seek gender transition health care.
That increases health care costs by between $2 to $8 million a year. Opponents estimate the cost to be closer to $3.7 billion over the next 10 years. For context, last year’s Pentagon budget was more than half a trillion U.S. dollars.
Eighteen other countries around the world allow transgender military personnel to serve. They include Australia, the U.K., and Canada, all with troops already fighting side by side with American troops against ISIS.