The Department of Defense on Wednesday used a day of LGBT celebration to announce that it was rolling back former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals in the military.
In announcing the policy change on International Transgender Day of Visibility, Pentagon officials said they could not supply information about how much the new policy would cost or any anticipated impacts on unit cohesion.
Department officials also provided no details on how soldiers seeking gender reassignment surgery would juggle their medical plans and any operational duties that might include fighting a war.
Wednesday’s focus was on the benefits of the policy to transgender individuals.
Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby and Director of Accession Policy Stephanie Miller held a news conference about the policy and were asked about the cost.
Miller said current data estimates 2,200 service members have gender dysphoria.
“So you know, the — the medical data that we have really indicates that, you know, it — it’s — it’s very small, you know, a handful of a million dollars per year, which is really, you know, covered within the — the defense health budget of several billion,” she said, according to a transcript on the Department of Defense website.
“So we’re not anticipating, with these changes and policies, that there’s going to be a significant impact in terms of medical costs,” Miller said.
She said the Pentagon stands ready to deliver whatever a transgendered individual wants.
“So really, we will provide medically necessary care to each individual member as really prescribed in their medical treatment plan. So that’s — that’s individual for each case and it’s certainly determined with their medical provider. And so, it really runs the gamut in terms of individuals who may only seek cross-sex hormone therapy versus those may pursue a surgical intervention,” Miller said, adding that she had no data to share about how many people would pursue which option.
“We have wonderful teams that are led by regional chairs across the Defense Department and major MTFs [military treatment facilities] that really specialize in this and are prepared to work with service members to help them have a successful transition,” she said.
Miller said that for individuals who are deployed, “there are a wide range of options available.”
“So you know, certainly there can be a discussion under the policy and under a transgender care plan of an adjustment of the date of which a certain part of the transition process is to occur such that the individual can potentially complete any sort of operational movement with the — the unit,” she said.
“There’s the opportunity to advise the service member of the availability of options for extended leave status or participation in other voluntary absence programs as needed. There could be an arrangement for a transfer to another organization, command, location, or duty status as needed. And really, when all of that is not appropriate then there — there could be a discussion about other courses of action.”
During the briefing, Miller was asked about the impact of the policy, which takes effect in 30 days, on unit cohesion.
“So today in this announcement, we’re really focused on the release of the two new instructions and we’re excited to implement that policy moving forward. There is ongoing litigation as it pertains to — to past policy. And so, we’re not prepared at this time to discuss either previous studies or the previous policy,” she said.
.@PentagonPresSec: Today is International #TransDayOfVisibility. We proudly recognize transgender and gender non-conforming people and their continued struggle for a life of equality, security, and dignity. pic.twitter.com/oXidHj2uv6
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) March 31, 2021
Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, said the policy is flawed, according to the Washington Examiner.
“They haven’t looked at unit cohesion. They really haven’t even looked at the aspects of military readiness, which is the part that troubles me the most,” Spoehr said.
“There’s no guidance in this policy that says, ‘OK, how am I supposed to accommodate all this? And yet, also keep the mission going,’” he said. “If this one person in your unit is playing a critical role, like he is the unit armor or communications person, and you only have one of them, and he or she is gone doing all these things, there’s no way that it can’t have a readiness impact on your unit.”
“With these people being gone frequently, for treatment and counseling or whatever, that there’s going to be this perception that there’s two kinds of people, that these folks aren’t pulling their full fair share,” Spoehr said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.