Dear Commons Community,
President Trump signed a directive yesterday banning military service members from identifying as transgender but also gives the Pentagon the ability to make exceptions. The policy recommendation that President Trump approved flatly states that “transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.” As reported by the New York Times:
“The policy adopts recommendations that Mr. Trump received last month from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It comes after court rulings froze the president’s initial ban on transgender troops — issued in July — as potentially unconstitutional.
“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mr. Mattis wrote in a summary of his recommendations to the president.
The policy announcement outraged advocates for transgender troops, and the advocates vowed to fight the limits in court.
“There is no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy,” said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, which focuses on sexuality and the military. “Our troops and our nation deserve better.”
Mr. Trump’s new order allows the defense secretary and the homeland security secretary to “exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”
In a memo to the president, dated Feb. 22, 2018, Mr. Mattis cited “substantial risks” about military personnel who seek to change or who question their gender identity.
He said that allowing some of them to serve would amount to an exemption of certain mental, physical and sex-based standards, and “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”
Mr. Mattis’s assertion contradicts a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation, which found that allowing transgender people to serve in the military would “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon.
The study estimated that health care costs would rise $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, representing an infinitesimal 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in spending. It concluded that there were 2,000 to 11,000 active-duty troops who are transgender.
Citing research into other countries that allow transgender people to serve, the study projected “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” in the United States.”
This directive is not a complete ban and allows for some wiggle room. It will be challenged and decided in the courts.