February 20, 2020
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Fact-checking Trump’s reasons for a transgender military ban

MILES O’BRIEN: Now to another controversial
move announced by the White House late Friday, this time about transgender people serving
in the military. Today, human rights groups filed two lawsuits
against the ban. William Brangham brings us up to date. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The White House issued memorandum
that followed through on President Trump’s unexpected tweets last month where he said
that transgender people wouldn’t be accepted or allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Friday’s memo said allowing trans service
members could — quote — “hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit
cohesion, and tax military resources.” The memorandum asked the Defense Department
to finalize new rules about what to do with the estimated several thousand active-duty
trans service members. For more on all this, we turn to Agnes Gereben
Schaefer. She’s a senior political scientist at the
RAND Corporation and was the lead author of a 2016 study for the Defense Department about
transgender people in the military. Welcome to “NewsHour.” AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER, RAND Corporation:
Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you were tasked to do
this study back in 2016, when the Obama administration was trying to figure out what to do with regards
to transgender service members. And what was the overall sort of focus of
your study? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: So, the Office of
the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Readiness asked us to conduct a study with
a very distinct mandate. And that included looking at the estimated
transgender population in the military, seeing how many of those transgender service members
would be likely to seek gender-transition-related treatment, what the costs would be of extending
health care coverage to the transgender community in the military, and what the potential readiness
implications might be associated with some of those medical treatments that they may
undertake, and, lastly, what lessons could be learned from foreign militaries that had
already allowed transgender individuals to serve openly. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president in his tweets
cited two main concerns that he had that made it why he wanted to do this. Costs was one of the things. He was — referred to these as tremendous
medical costs. I know you looked at this in your study. What are the costs? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: So, we estimated that
the cost would be about between $2.4 and $8.4 million. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is per year? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: Per year, exactly. And that represents four-tenths to one-tenth
of a percent of the active component health care budget for 2014, which are the numbers
that — the base numbers that we used. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, a minuscule fraction. AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: Well, what is driving
this is really the — our estimate of the total number of transgender individuals in
the military. And they’re small numbers, less than 11,000
across the active and reserve component. And so those small numbers drive small costs. And the other thing to take into account is
that not all transgender service members will undertake these medical treatments, like surgeries
and hormone replacement. But the surgeries is really what was driving
the costs. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The other thing that the
president cited as a main driver of why he wanted to change the policy was disruption
to the military services. What did you find in that regard? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: So, we found that
the readiness impact of transgender-related treatments would lead to a loss of less than
1 percent of the total available man or labor years across the active component. In fact, the number that we estimate is .0015
percent of those labor years. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Again, pretty small number. AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: A small — exactly,
because, again, not — the number of individuals that we think will use these or take these
medical treatments is small. So, we estimate between 25 and 130 active
component members would actually have surgical treatments. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, and very quickly,
I understand you looked at the experiences of, I think, 18 other countries? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: Yes. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Did any of those other nations
have a problem that they felt they needed to get transgender service members out of
their services? AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: So, we didn’t find
any readiness or cohesion implications. There were anecdotal concerns about bullying,
but they were able to deal with that through policy changes. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Agnes Gereben
Schaefer, thank you very much. AGNES GEREBEN SCHAEFER: Thank you.

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