Metro Weekly

56 retired generals and admirals say transgender ban will hurt military readiness

Former military leaders say President Trump is wrong about costs of medical care for transgender troops

Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, via Wikimedia.

“[T]he proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”

–A statement released by the Palm Center from 56 retired general and flag officers responding to President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military. In their statement, the retired officials state that such a ban could cause “significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.”

The military leaders also argue that transgender Americans who want to serve in the military should not be dismissed or deprived of medically necessary health care, as some in Congress have proposed due to their objections over taxpayer dollars being used to pay for gender confirmation surgery. And they take issue with claims that paying for transition-related expenses such as hormones would be prohibitively expensive.

“President Trump seeks to ban transgender service members because of the financial cost and disruption associated with transgender military service. We respectfully disagree, and consider these claims to be without merit,” the generals and admirals write. “The RAND Corporation, as well as research in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year. This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget.”

The military leaders note that 18 foreign nations, including allies such as the United Kingdom and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve openly, without impacting military readiness. They cite statements by two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who support allowing transgender individuals to serve openly.

“Admiral Mike Mullen stated that, ‘I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards….The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness,'” the statement says. “Admiral Mullen urged civilian leaders ‘to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.’ We could not agree more.” 

Stephen Peters, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign and a Marine veteran, praised the military leaders for pointing out the harm associated with instituting a ban on transgender service members.

“President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s attack on bravely serving transgender troops is dangerous and unpatriotic,” Peters said in a statement. “They absolutely must listen to these voices of reason and reverse course in support of ALL of our nation’s heroes, regardless of their gender identity.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com