Lawmakers want DoD’s data on transgender ban decision

Lawmakers are demanding answers on how the Defense Department came to the newest iteration of its policy on transgender people in the military.

The policy released last month effectively bars transgender people from joining the military and puts transgender troops currently serving in jeopardy of losing their jobs.

Four of the top Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate Armed Services Committee are skeptical of the Pentagon’s findings, especially after the issue was studied by the RAND Corporation and the New England Journal of Medicine. DoD also had plans and policies in place for a year and a half before the ban was announced.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) respectively the House and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking members, as well as Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the House and Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel ranking members signed a letter April 11 asking DoD to show its work.

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The letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis states “you created a panel of experts of senior uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders and charged them to provide their best military advice without regard to any external factors. Although you state that the panel received input from civilian medical professionals, the recommendations appear to us to be inconsistent with what we have heard from the civilian medical community.”

The letter asks the Pentagon who was on the panel of experts, who they consulted with and if they consulted with the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association or the American Medical Association.

The letter also asks what risks arose since transgender people were allowed to serve openly in the military back in 2016 and how transgender people might affect readiness. The letter requests all specific medical and scientific data supporting the conclusions.

Both Army and Air Force Chiefs of Staff Gens. Mark Milley and David Goldfein said the vice chiefs of staff of each service were on the panel of experts. Milley said during an April 12 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the panel was led by the DoD Personnel and Readiness Office.

When Mattis released his recommendation to the president he dismissed the RAND study which stated the cost of keeping transgender individuals and new recruits in the military is estimated to cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually and that they were able to serve effectively in the military.

Mattis stated the study contained “significant shortcomings” and relied on heavily caveated data to support its conclusions, glossed over the impacts of healthcare costs, readiness and unit cohesion.

The defense secretary did not mention the New England Journal of Medicine study, which came to largely the same conclusions.

The RAND Corporation came out with a statement standing by its study and the conclusions it found.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association all sent letters to Mattis stating in their medical opinions transgender people are able to serve competently in the military and supported the RAND study.

“We believe there is no medically valid reason—including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria—to exclude transgender individuals from military service. Transgender individuals have served, and continue to serve, our country with honor, and we believe they should be allowed to continue doing so,” the American Medical Association letter stated.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukfunt and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer all said they didn’t see an issue with transgender people serving as long as they can perform their duties.

Milley echoed those opinions during the April 12 hearing.

“We have an Army that is standards-based. It has always been standards-based, it will remain standards-based for medical, physical, psychological, conduct, et cetera. Those soldiers or those applicants, people who want to assess into the Army that meet those standards, and they are rigorous standards, if you meet those standards then you are on the team. If you don’t meet the standards for whatever reason then you won’t be on the team, it’s that simple,” Milley said.

Both Milley and Army Secretary Mark Esper said they have not heard of any issues or complaints about transgender people in the military since they have been allowed to serve openly.

Due to four court cases and a court injunction on the policy, the military is currently acting under the policy allowing transgender people to serve openly and allowing transgender people to join the military.