Last year, the Pentagon announced a new policy colloquially referred to as “deploy or depart.” Roughly speaking, if you weren’t in the proper shape to deploy to the field, you were going to be cut from the military.
Now, for roughly 21,000 troops, that means they’re no longer with the U.S. armed forces.
That’s the takeaway from testimony by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, in which he said that’s the number of troops that have been cut from the rolls since the policy began last summer.
“A key element of strengthening our military and increasing lethality is ensuring our warfighters achieve established physical, mental and security vetting standards,” Shanahan said during the 2020 budget request hearing, according to the Military Times.
“War is unforgiving, and our mission demands we remain a standards-based organization.”
The Pentagon had stated last year that 235,000 troops were non-deployable.
“Almost half of that number were individuals missing medical exams or paperwork, troops nearing retirement and women service members who were pregnant,” the Military Times reported.
“But the remaining 126,000 faced a range of short- and long-term injuries, or simply failed to meet military fitness standards. Military officials said those individuals would be given up to 12 months to prove their deployability or be pushed out of the services.”
The policy exempted “(p)regnant, recently pregnant and combat-wounded troops,” the Military Times reported.
“In upholding systematically applied standards, we ensure the readiness of our joint force and cohesion of our units,” Shanahan said, adding that the move was part of a general move to increase readiness under the Trump administration.
“We recognize restoring military readiness, modernizing our joint force and increasing lethality will not happen overnight, but … we are making meaningful progress,” he said, the Military Times reported.
Troop readiness has been one of the goals of the Trump administration, although this hasn’t generated quite as much controversy as another move the administration made: Reversing the Obama administration’s move to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military.
“…(T)he Department of Defense concludes that there are substantial risks associated with allowing the accession and retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and require, or have already undertaken, a course of treatment to change their gender,” stated a February 2018 memorandum from then-Defense Secretary James Mattis announcing the reinstitution of the ban.
“Furthermore, the Department also finds that exempting such persons from well-established mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards, which apply to all Service members, including transgender Service members without gender dysphoria, could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden of the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”
In a 5-4 January ruling, the Supreme Court took no action on the ban, which meant that it would be allowed to go into effect after nearly a year’s worth of legal wrangling.
That the ban has proven to be unpopular among Democrats is an understatement. In fact, on Sunday, Democrat presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey promised to end it during a campaign stop in Iowa.
“When I am president of the United States, right away I will end this ridiculous, insulting, un-American ban on transgender Americans serving in the military,” Booker said to applause, according to The Associated Press.
That may get claps on the campaign trail. However, just like “deploy or depart,” there’s a key underlying truth to both policies: War is unforgiving.
Good luck saying anything else when it comes to the general election.
If these troops aren’t in shape to deploy — physically or mentally — they have no place in our armed forces.
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