OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The Pentagon used the occasion of celebrating the LGBTQ community to tout its “wonderful teams” of physicians standing by and ready to perform transgender surgeries for military members.
In making the announcement on International Transgender Day of Visibility, Defense Department officials added that they did not have any information as to how much the new policy change would cost taxpayers or what impact it would have on a very vital aspect of military effectiveness – unit cohesion.
Also, DoD officials did not say how soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Space Force members who want gender reassignment surgery would be able to get it done while still being able to perform their duties, the most important of which include fighting — and winning — America’s wars.
Instead, the focus of the news conference on Wednesday was to promote the benefits of the new policy implemented by Joe Biden — one of many he issued overturning Donald Trump’s policies, including a ban on transgenders in the military.
At the press conference, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby and Director of Accession Policy Stephanie Miller were asked about the cost. Miller told reporters that it is estimated some 2,200 current military members are afflicted with ‘gender dysphoria.’
“So you know, the — the medical data that we have really indicates that, you know, it — it’s — it’s very small, you know, a handful of a million dollars per year, which is really, you know, covered within the — the defense health budget of several billion,” she said.
“So we’re not anticipating, with these changes and policies, that there’s going to be a significant impact in terms of medical costs,” Miller added.
Nevertheless, Miller added that the Pentagon stands ready to deliver for the transgender troops.
“So really, we will provide medically necessary care to each individual member as really prescribed in their medical treatment plan. So that’s — that’s individual for each case and it’s certainly determined with their medical provider. And so, it really runs the gamut in terms of individuals who may only seek cross-sex hormone therapy versus those may pursue a surgical intervention,” she said, noting further that she had no data about how many people would pursue their options.
“We have wonderful teams that are led by regional chairs across the Defense Department and major MTFs [military treatment facilities] that really specialize in this and are prepared to work with service members to help them have a successful transition,” she said.
She also said that for service members who are deployed, “there are a wide range of options available.”
“So you know, certainly there can be a discussion under the policy and under a transgender care plan of an adjustment of the date of which a certain part of the transition process is to occur such that the individual can potentially complete any sort of operational movement with the — the unit,” she added.
“There’s the opportunity to advise the service member of the availability of options for extended leave status or participation in other voluntary absence programs as needed. There could be an arrangement for a transfer to another organization, command, location, or duty status as needed. And really, when all of that is not appropriate then there — there could be a discussion about other courses of action.”
The policy takes effect in 30 days; Miller was asked about the impact the Pentagon expected it to have on readiness.
“So today in this announcement, we’re really focused on the release of the two new instructions and we’re excited to implement that policy moving forward. There is ongoing litigation as it pertains to — to past policy. And so, we’re not prepared at this time to discuss either previous studies or the previous policy,” she said.