Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defied President Trump by announcing last week that transgender troops will be allowed to continue serving in the military, pending the results of a study by experts. Secretary Mattis’s announcement provides time for the Pentagon to determine whether it will allow thousands of transgender troops to continue to serve, whether they will receive medical treatment, or how they will be discharged.
Mattis’s announcement follows the order from President Trump, notoriously first announced in a tweet, declaring that transgender service members can no longer serve in the military, effectively reversing an Obama administration policy. The order also affects the Department of Homeland Security, which houses the Coast Guard. It was only one year prior that President Obama announced that transgender persons would be able to serve openly. At the time of Obama’s announcement, the Pentagon already had plenty of studies on the fiscal and practical ramifications of making such a change, which is why Trump’s about-face on the issue felt so jarring, so petty. The RAND Corp. to examined the effects on military readiness of allowing transgender troops to serve openly and the cost of providing them medical treatment. That study study estimated that a few to several thousand transgender troops are on the active duty force of approximately 1.3 million. Researchers found that paying for their health care needs would amount to about $8 million per year and the effect on readiness would be negligible. Then, immediately following Trump’s tweet storm, top military personnel came out of the woodwork to confirm that they had no idea this announcement was coming. We would later learn that Trump’s hasty ban on transgender people serving our military came just after the predawn raid of Manafort’s home, so some have wondered whether the president assumed that story would become public knowledge and was trying to create a mushroom cloud of distraction.
“Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction,” Mattis said in the statement. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.”
The Defense Secretary’s announcement buys time for the Pentagon to determine whether it will allow thousands of transgender troops to continue to serve, whether they will receive medical treatment, or how they will be discharged.