July 05, 2017
Only 23 percent of America thought the military should start enlisting transgenders on July 1 -- and fortunately, Defense Secretary James Mattis wasn’t one of them. With a buzzer-beating memo, the military boss made the eleventh hour decision to postpone the move for six months -- to the relief of conservatives and troops across the country.
After an intense internal debate, the service chiefs can finally exhale about an Obama-era policy they worried would crumble morale, readiness, and retention. Behind closed doors, most lobbied for a two-year delay but finally agreed on a shorter timetable with the hopes that they can prove how devastating the decision would be on their warrior ethos. To his credit, Mattis heeded their warning in a statement late Friday, announcing that a delay was the beginning -- not the end -- of the discussion. “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?” he explained. “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.” Then, without tipping his hand, he promised that whatever analysis the Pentagon undertakes “in no way presupposes an outcome.”
While President Obama dropped this bomb on the Defense Department without a single systematic study of the consequences, most people expected a more cautious approach from the Trump administration. Hopefully, this means they’ll get it. As FRC’s Lt. General Jerry Boykin points out, there’s a lot riding on the Pentagon’s decision. With everything to lose and not much apart from political correctness to gain, General Boykin agrees that hitting the brakes is a good first step. “Fortunately, the military’s leadership realized what the American people already do: this makes no sense. With a price tag of $3.7 billion over 10 years, no one seems to understand the rush to embrace a culture change that not only undermines national security but taxpayers. “Spending billions of dollars on transgender surgeries and treatment plans, when the military has other priorities that would actually ensure its effectiveness in war, is irresponsible,” General Boykin told reporters.
Apart from the actual gender reassignment surgery (which would cost taxpayers as much as $110,450 each), FRC’s Peter Sprigg calculates that “Service members will also be unavailable for deployment for several months after surgery -- adding $504.3 million in cost to replace them. Making matters worse, those who have had reassignment surgery or hormone therapy may actually be permanently non-deployable because they would require specialized medical care which may not be available everywhere in the world.” This isn’t the business world, where decisions don’t have life or death consequences. This is the U.S. military, where special treatment depletes a very real warfighting force.
Then, of course, there are the practical implications -- like biological men showering next to women, “male pregnancies,” and off-duty drag. “Personnel who identify as transgender are expected to receive exceptions to policies and medical requirements that their peers will still be required to meet. These exceptions may be applied to policies about everything from physical and mental fitness standards to dress and presentation standards, and they create an unfairness that will undermine unit cohesion and morale,” the General warned.
Now that the clock starts ticking toward January, conservatives like Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) recognize that the reprieve is a temporary one. In the meantime, she and her House allies continue to push for a complete roll-back of a decision she calls a “threat” to readiness. “This delay is indicative of a policy that was rushed and never clearly thought out, and I am pleased that Secretary Mattis has decided to delay the accession policy. It is my hope that he will move forward with full repeal in the coming months.” If not, the GOP stands ready to do it themselves on the National Defense Authorization Act.
If they do, they’ll have the country’s support. In a poll that probably gave the Pentagon the nudge it needed, Rasmussen announced late last week that the majority of Americans favor a delay (48 percent, compared to 32 percent who don’t; and 21 percent who are “undecided). Of those who strongly approve of commander-in-chief Trump, 63 percent believe enlisting the gender confused would be bad for the military.
In the end, one of the opinions we should care about is our enemies’. They won’t have mercy either way. All they’re concerned with is whether we’re capable of killing and capturing them on the battlefield. And as they know, a distracted force is a vulnerable one.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.