During yesterday’s marathon markup of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) offered an amendment to reinstate a ban on transgender people serving in the military and instruct the Secretary of Defense to discharge any transgender troops currently serving.
In defending this discriminatory amendment, Rep. Hartzler inaccurately claimed that allowing transgender people to serve would hurt readiness and morale, and asserted that transition-related medical costs would reach $1.35 billion over the next 10 years.
But these claims have no basis in reality. As Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) pointed out, when the Pentagon was considering the new policy, it commissioned a report by the RAND Corporation to study the readiness and cost implications of transgender military service. The report estimated that health care costs for the entire military health system would only increase between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually out of a $50 billion healthcare budget. And according to data from other countries that allow transgender military service--including the UK, Canada, Australia, and Israel--as well as studying the impact of integrating women and LGB people into the military, the impact on readiness or unit cohesion would be minimal.
Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA) compared the logic behind barring transgender military service to that of Congress many years ago that believed that African Americans "were not smart enough to fly airplanes."
Thankfully, Rep. Hartzler withdrew her amendment, though she warned that she would continue to pursue this policy change as the bill moves forward.
In June 2016, the Pentagon announced it was revising its outdated policies to allow for transgender military service. The directive immediately allowed transgender people already in the military to serve their country openly and honorably without risk of discharge based on their gender identity. The last piece of the new policy that would allow new transgender recruits to enlist is scheduled to go into effect by July 1, however reports indicate that it may be delayed by six months.
The military should be recruiting and retaining the best troops to serve in our military—not rejecting or discharging qualified troops simply because of their gender identity.