- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2017

Social conservatives are savoring a rare victory in the armed forces’ long battle of the sexes, toasting President Trump’s Twitter announcement that there will be no transgender troops.

“The real winners are military and pro-defense voters who responded to Trump’s promise to end political correctness in the military,” said Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness and has long fought against using the military to test social theory.

The question now is, how and when will the ban happen?

When Mr. Trump sent his tweet, Defense Secretary James Mattis had just ordered the four military branches to study currently serving transgender members as they pertain to readiness.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, issued a message saying nothing will change until the White House formally tells the Pentagon what to do. The Trump edict so surprised the top brass that Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, told airmen of a “potential” policy change.

The political right suffered a number of losses. It watched aghast as the military increasingly became what activists said was a testing ground for political correctness and social liberal policies. Conservatives complained of a constant drift away from the military’s main focus: training and fighting.

They railed against “diversity police” as an affront to finding the best combatants, not the most diverse. They said the Obama administration’s zero tolerance for sexual assault, though well-meaning, led to witch hunts and presumptions of guilt.

President Obama’s military revolution did not stop there. He lifted the ban on open gays in the ranks and then ended restrictions on women serving in direct ground combat, such as infantry and Navy SEALs. His final social legacy was the end of the ban on transgender troops in October. The prohibition had cited a psychological condition called gender dysphoria.

Next in line: Develop a policy on recruiting transgender people. To get ready, the Army schooled soldiers on how to cope with the appearance of male genitalia in the women’s shower or with a pregnant woman who is getting reassignment treatment to become a man.

Mr. Mattis delayed the recruiting decision, due July 1 under Mr. Obama’s timeline, until the end of the year while the services conducted their studies.

But Mr. Trump pre-empted the exercise by announcing Wednesday that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”

“The president has expressed concerns since this Obama policy came into effect, but he’s also voiced that this is a very expensive and disruptive policy,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “And based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team, came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion, and made the decision based on that.”

Said Mrs. Donnelly: “Next, President Trump needs to initiate formal policy changes, which should be consistent in putting military readiness first.”

Mrs. Donnelly listed eight categories of people who will benefit from the ban, such as “military women who object to training programs telling them that they must accept infringements on their personal privacy, including unclothed biological males, in facilities and conditions of forced intimacy.”

She also listed “military commanders, doctors and nurses who have been ordered to approve, participate in or perform procedures that violate medical ethics or sincerely held personal or religious convictions.”

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities, and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military. The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

The conservative Concerned Women for America also said Mr. Trump was right.

“Concerned Women for America applauds the White House decision to forgo accepting transgender personnel in the military,” said Penny Nance, the group’s president. “The costly Obama policy on transgender soldiers was based on social engineering, not military readiness. CWA opposes any policy that makes our armed services weaker.”

The Hartzler amendment

As the July 1 Obama deadline approached, conservatives began pelting the White House with demands to stop the process and reverse course.

Then Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Missouri Republican, took the big step of bringing the debate into the open in Congress. The House Armed Services Committee member proposed an amendment during a budget-writing session that would reinstitute the ban and honorably discharge all transgender troops, thought to number 2,000 to 7,000, according to the Rand Corp.

Mrs. Hartzler withdrew the measure, but not before it touched off the first real debate in Congress on a military policy that Mr. Obama decreed with little Capitol Hill feedback. She then carried the issue to the House floor on July 13 during debate on the fiscal 2018 defense budget bill. She scaled back her objective with a bill that banned taxpayer money for gender reassignment surgery and treatment.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a former Marine Corps officer, said people should decide whether they are men or women before joining. “Make America great again,” he said.

The bill failed when 24 Republicans sided with all Democrats to vote no.

Mrs. Hartzler and other conservatives kept up the pressure on the White House. One of her talking points: the cost of transgender sex reassignment surgeries. The 10-year cost would be $1.3 billion, based on estimates by private groups that 14,910 transgender troops are on active duty and in the reserves, she said.

Based on a Pentagon-commissioned study by the Rand Corp., there are 1,320 to 6,630 transgender personnel in the 1.3 million active force. The study estimated that surgeries would cost $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year.

Rand reported last year to then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that transgender troops will not harm combat readiness.

“The merits of impartiality of this study are questionable,” Mrs. Hartzler’s report said.

One question is, what happens to those ongoing transgender studies ordered by Mr. Mattis on June 30.

The Washington Times asked the Pentagon if the reviews will continue. A spokesman referred to statements by Gen. Dunford and chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana W. White. They said no changes to policy would be made until they receive a White House directive.

Said an Army source: “The Pentagon is a bureaucracy that requires paperwork. Congress is silent, and now the president went to Twitter with a decision. The chairman will issue a directive once the details are clear so all the Obama policy pieces can be stopped. Keep in mind we had training ongoing, treatment was ongoing, policies for commanders are in place. The train has a lot of moving parts that must now be stopped.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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