The Defense Department is rethinking two Obama era policies aimed at recruiting and retaining top talent in the military services.
Defense Secretary James Mattis is delaying the DoD plan to allow the recruitment of transgender individuals in the military.
The policy does not affect transgender people currently serving in the military.
The Washington Post also reports the department is considering canceling a program that expedites the path to citizenship for immigrants with much needed medical and language skills willing to join the military.
Canceling the immigration program could leave 1,000 recruits currently in the program susceptible to deportation.
DoD says it is currently reviewing the policy.
As for the transgender issue, Mattis send out a memo June 30 requiring a further six month review on transgender individuals in the military.
“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months. We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality. This review will include all relevant considerations. My intent is to ensure that I personally have the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials that are now arriving in the department,” the memo stated.
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s team extensively studied the effects of allowing transgendered individuals in the military by relying on input from top military leadership, medical and personnel experts in the Pentagon, transgender service members, outside medical experts, advocacy groups and the RAND Corporation.
The last year was used to implement the policy in stages to address the needs of service members, commanders and to train the entire force.
“Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction. We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to train and develop each individual, and we want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who have proven themselves,” Carter said during the roll out last year.
A RAND Corporation study found that allowing transgender individuals to undergo transition treatment while in the military will increase active-component health care costs between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.
That would equal .00038 to .0013 percent of the $640 billion base budget authorized by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees for 2018.
“It is outrageous that the Trump Administration would issue a delay in allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in our military without providing any evidence to support such a decision,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
But others in Congress are as protective of the previous policy.
“This is the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement when the policy was announced. “Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable. The [Obama[ Administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our Armed Forces are deployed around the world.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) called up an amendment during the 2018 defense authorization bill markup last week to nullify DoD’s policy allowing transgenders to serve openly in the military.
Hartzler immediately withdrew the amendment and only entered it to make a point, but there’s still a possibility the amendment could come up again when the bill goes to the House floor next month.
The transgender policy “is ill conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing budget dollars into shortfalls of the past. By recruiting and allowing transgenders to serve openly in our military we are subjecting the tax payers to high medical costs,” Hartzler said June 29.
Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-Mass.) cited the actual cost of allowing transgender people in the military and summed up her statement by saying “I urge my colleges to refrain from relying on unfounded figures and assumptions.”