Following a roster of questionable decisions, Donald Trump has announced that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the US military. The president noted that the armed forces must remain “focused on decisive and overwhelming victory”.
Trump says this decision was made after consulting with “generals and military experts”, although he did not name any specifically. The ban was announced in a series of tweets, a somewhat surprising platform for such a major policy announcement. The announcement then reinstates the ban on transgender service members, who havebeen allowed to serve since last year. Defense secretary Ash Carter had lifted the ban last year under the Obama administration, allowing all current transgender members to serve openly. Perhaps aware of the backlash the announcement would receive, Trump cited a number of practical issues for the decision and stated that the military cannot be “burdened” with the “medical costs” and “disruption” that transgender service members would bring. However, the policy was still under a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to decide how it would accept new transgender recruits into the armed forces. Last month, on the eve of the deadline, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that there would be a six month delay in the implementation of the policy. He stated that more time was needed to decide whether or not this policy would affect the US military’s ability to defend efficiently. He defended the delay in the following memo. “Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force? Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.” Before the ban was lifted for the first time, Ash Carter had ordered the Pentagon to study the ways in which allowing transgender people to serve might affect the strength of the military. Multiple outside studies determined that lifting the ban would have minimal impact in the readiness of the US military, mainly because there are few transgender people in the military. Of the 1.3 million active service members, it is estimatedthat about 2,450 are transgender. Transgender service members have been able to receive medical care and begin formally transitioning since late last year.A RAND corporation study of the cost of allowing transgender members into the US military found that when accounting for transition surgeries and hormone treatments, the cost could range from $2.4 million and $8.4 million. The study concluded that this cost would take up an “exceedingly small proportion” of the total healthcare costs of the US military. While Trump’s tweets seem to confirm that the ban will be reinstated, there is some vagueness in his wording. Many have pointed out that saying transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve “in any capacity” does not explicitly state that transgender individuals who are already serving (and have been doing so openly for one year now) will lose their positions.
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