A 2016 study from the think tank RAND Corp. estimated that few military service members would seek gender transition-related treatment under the Obama administration policy to lift a ban on transgender people openly serving. It also found that costs of such treatment would be minimal.
President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the US military would not allow transgender individuals to serve “in any capacity,” citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” that their service would cause. Trump’s announcement reverses the Obama administration’s decision in 2016 to allow transgender individuals to openly serve, though the implementation of that policy had been delayed by Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.
Despite Trump’s concerns about “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” RAND found that integrating transgender troops into the military would have a “minimal likely impact” on force readiness and that the monetary costs of allowing transgender troops into the military would likely be low.
While it’s difficult to estimate how many transgender troops currently serve in the military, RAND estimated that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender personnel in the active component of the military (out of a total of about 1.3 million) and about 1,510 in the reserves.
But not all of those would seek gender transition-related treatment, which can be costly.
RAND derived estimates based on survey data and private health insurance claims data and found that each year, between 29 and 129 active military service members might seek transition-related care “that could disrupt their ability to deploy.”
RAND also estimated the cost of providing transition-related care to those people. The study found that healthcare costs for the active component of the military would increase by between $US2.4 million and $US8.4 million annually, which comes out to a 0.04% to 0.13% increase.
“Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1% of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy,” the study stated.
The Obama administration’s policy to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military would have covered transition-related care such as gender-reassignment surgery.
The RAND study also dismissed the idea that allowing transgender people to serve openly would disrupt unit readiness. The think tank looked at foreign militaries that allow transgender people to serve and considered previous efforts to integrate the US military.
“The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness,” the study said. “Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.”
The study also said that “policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the US military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”