The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the White House is expected to send ‘guidance in the coming days,’ to the Pentagon for barring transgender soldiers from serving in the military. Under the new policy, transgender people would be banned from enlisting in the military. According to NPR, the new policy would give Defense Secretary James Mattis’ discretion on removing transgender personnel currently serving in the armed forces.
Trump had declared his intentions in July through a series of tweets, to ban all transgenders from serving in the military. If the White House does send ‘guidance’ to the Pentagon on the military ban, it is unclear how rigorously Defense Secretary Mattis would enforce the policy. According to sources who know Matthis, “he’ll give a lot of leeway for keeping transgender people in – unless there’s some huge medical issue that prevents deployability.”
The issue of “deployability,” is likely to become the litmus test for Mattis, as denying transgender personnel with medical treatment is seen as more popular among Republican politicians than an outright ban. A 2016 Rand Corp. study estimated the cost to cover medical care for the nearly 10,700 members in active duty and reserves would cost roughly a maximum of $8.4 million per year which would have “little impact” on overall military health expenditures.
Radha Iyengar, a senior economist at Rand clarified that, “What we are waiting to see if there is a document with legal force that the White House can provide the DoD to begin the official (ban) process,” adding that this would, “start the implementation wheels turning.” Even if the White House does send the official document to the Pentagon with ‘guidance’ on a ban, a bipartisan majority in Congress could prevent the ban with three avenues, “adding language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passing legislation to prohibit the ban or exercising their oversight authority by calling Secretary Mattis to appear before Congress,” said Katherine Kidder, a Fellow in the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for New American Security.
As the White House’s next move on the ban is closely watched, most seem to agree with Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s Twitter response, “This is NOT how you keep America safe. Period. #ProtectTransTroops.”
Visibility for the trans community is at an all-time high. Producers of the MTV Video Music Awards are showing their support by inviting transgender military service members to attend Sunday’s show.