March 26, 2018
It hasn't been the easiest of decades for the U.S. military. Eight years of living on a shoestring budget with a commander-in-chief who cared more about promoting the letters LGBT than preventing W-A-R took its toll. Now, 14 months into the gutsy leadership of President Trump, things are finally starting to change. And on Friday, Americans saw how much.
For our troops, the weekend started off with a bang. They cheered the news that Trump had followed through on his promise to start rebuilding the military -- first, with a $61 billion bump in funding, and then, with a rejection of the political correctness that upended the military under Barack Obama. In the roller coaster months since President Trump's first transgender announcement, no one was quite sure how the White House's formal policy would take shape. To most people's relief, the Pentagon's final memo did what the commander-in-chief promised: put readiness first.
Under the memo released Friday, both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson signed their names to a 40-page document that will help free our military from the radical grip of the Obama years. Building on the GOP platform he swore to uphold, the president took a strong and decisive step away from the uncertainty that Ash Carter injected into the military when he tore down the barriers to transgender service. "Military standards are high for a reason," Secretary Mattis wrote in the report, "the trauma of war, which all service members must be prepared to face, demands physical, mental, and moral standards that will give all service members the greatest chance to survive their ordeal with their bodies, minds, and moral character intact. The Department would be negligent to sacrifice those standards for any cause."
In the new policy, people who identify as transgender, but who haven't been formally diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" and have not undergone a "gender transition" are free to serve or join the military -- with one catch: they must serve as their biological sex. On the other hand, anyone with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria (which the Pentagon defines as someone who requires "substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery") are barred from the military, except under limited circumstances. While there are certain caveats, including when a person entered the military and in what state of transition, the administration's decision sends a powerful message that the days of reckless social engineering in the military are over.
After digging into the science and the instability Obama's policy created, Mattis and his team were more convinced than ever that letting this type of gender chaos into the military presents a "considerable risk" to its "effectiveness and lethality." And they had more than enough evidence to back it up. The memo does a great job dismantling the flawed RAND study that former Secretary Ash Carter used to prop up Obama's move. DOD insists that RAND "mischaracterizes or overstates the reports on which it rests its conclusions" (p. 39). "In fact," officials write, "the RAND study itself repeatedly emphasized the lack of quality data on these issues and qualified its conclusions accordingly" -- a fact the last administration never bothered to mention.
The Defense Department also takes Carter's regime to task, explaining that they found several instances where "standards were adjusted or relaxed to accommodate service by transgender persons" (p. 19) -- which is somewhat ironic, given the Left's insistence on "equality." To bend the rules and justify their decision, Carter's team had to ignore stacks of research from their own ranks. For example, people who suffer from "gender dysphoria" in the military are eight times more likely to commit suicide (p. 21) and nine times more likely to have negative "mental health encounters." And while the taxpayer-funded treatments go on, their service peers are the ones left picking up the slack. "To access recruits with higher rates of anticipated unavailability for deployment thrusts a heavier burden on those who would deploy more often" (p. 27).
While Democrats like Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) fire off angry tweets, arguing that the president's position "cuts directly across the drive for equality," DOD points out just how mistaken they are. If any policy was unfair, it was Obama's! As Defense officials point out, if a service member had to have genital reconstruction surgery because of a traumatic combat injury, they would have been disqualified from military service without a waiver. But if someone decided to change sexes because they were struggling with their identity, their waiver would be granted (p. 28). That's how twisted Obama's agenda was -- rewarding service members with mental struggles on one hand and punishing hurting heroes on the other.
Meanwhile, as military leaders have said out for years, there is no such thing as a "right to serve" in the military.
"The vast majority of Americans from ages 17-24 -- that is, 71 percent -- are ineligible to join the military for medical, mental, or behavioral reasons," Mattis points out. "Transgender persons with gender dysphoria are no less valued members of our nation than all other categories of persons who are disqualified from military service. The Department honors all citizens who wish to dedicate, and perhaps even lay down, their lives in defense of the nation -- even when the Department, in the best interest of the military, must decline to grant their wish" (p. 6).
Unfortunately, the far Left isn't interested in the facts or the potential harms of Obama's position. All they care about is using the military to advance their fringe agenda at the very real expense of national security. The Pentagon's responsibility, Mattis reminds everyone, is to fight and win wars. "...[I]n light of the various sources of uncertainty in this area and informed by the data collected since the Carter policy took effect, the Department is not convinced that these risks could be responsibly dismissed or that even negligible harms should be incurred..."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the president's decision "cowardly." As usual, she's wrong. Few things take more guts than standing up to liberal extremists and doing what's in the best interest of America's security -- and the brave men and women in uniform. We should all applaud the Trump administration for making decisions that keep our military strong and our country safe.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.