Today, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he was banning transgender people from serving in the United States military. His reasoning for taking action can be seen below:
Reports are saying he blindsided the Pentagon by not informing him of his decision before he went public. This is a little peculiar in other ways as well, especially since the legislative side of the GOP seemed to have moved passed this issue in the past couple of weeks. The argument to reenact this ban stems from the medical costs transgender soldiers require for gender transition surgeries. Of the 15,000 transgender troops believed to be serving right now, it would cost taxpayers “a range between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, representing an approximate 0.13-percent increase” for these medical related costs annually (https://www.rand.org/news/press/2016/06/30.html).
Now that number sounds high, but in the grand scheme of money saving policy, it really isn’t. To put that in perspective, the new annual proposed budget for the military is expected to be around $640 billion. Even taking the highest of the expected range for transgender medical costs, that accounts for 0.000013% of the budget. Cutting something like that isn’t going to save the taxpayers any significant pocket change. Additionally, the U.S. military spends about $84 million/yr on erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/07/things-that-cost-more-than-medical-care-for-transgender-soldiers/534945/), which is about 10 times higher than the proposed cuts.
With the stated facts above, I do not think money saving is the motivation here. So what is the then? It could be that Trump is just trying to undo everything he can that Obama did under his tenure (like the Paris Agreement, Obamacare, etc…). It could also be that he was simply swayed to act by his more right-wing advisers like Pence and Bannon. It may even be serving to distract the public away from the healthcare debates going on in the senate. However, my clarity became more transparent when I saw this Politico report:
Some of the right-wing members of the GOP house were not happy with gender transition related medical expenses, so they threatened to sink a bill that would guarantee border wall funding. The GOP leadership was not happy with their constituents threats, and refused to back down. That prompted those same members to approach the White House to act on their behalf, which seemed to happen. With support from advisers, it appears that how we got the tweets today.
Regardless if that report is correct or not, this seems like another example of Trump acting spontaneously to serve the wants of his base and a small group of his advisers. It’s also a decision that didn’t seem to have a lot of pre-planning involved, nor notification of some important parties at hand (Mattis on vacation, Senate armed services committee and Pentagon caught off-guard). It’s also an unfortunate situation that Trump wants to roll back on a certain groups rights to serve in the military because of their negligible medical costs. It’s cautiously lightening that members of both sides of the aisle are speaking against today’s actions, but will they step up when the time comes?