Last year, without any systematic study of the consequences, the Obama administration reversed longstanding policies that excluded those who identify as transgender, on both psychological and medical grounds, from serving in the U.S. military. The armed services immediately stopped discharging existing service members who suffer from gender dysphoria (unhappiness with their biological sex at birth). Phase Two of this policy—allowing persons who identify as transgender to join the military—was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017.
Family Research Council has now calculated both the direct medical costs and the cost of lost deployable time, and concluded that the transgender policy could cost taxpayers up to $3.7 billion over the next ten years.
The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBT think tank, estimates that there are currently 7,300 biological males and 1,500 biological females with gender dysphoria serving on active duty in the military. FRC used data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey to calculate how many of those would seek surgery. Under the military’s new policy, all eligible service members will receive 100 percent of their “necessary” care—including gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy—at no cost to the service member.
According to data from the Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, a comprehensive package of male-to-female surgical procedures would cost $110,450, and female-to-male procedures would cost $89,050. Adding the cost of counseling and hormone therapy—which must continue indefinitely after surgery—would result in a total cost of medical interventions for current active duty service members of nearly $1 billion over the next ten years. These calculations do not include additional possible expenses, such as electrolysis (hair removal) and voice therapy or vocal surgery.
Service members will also be unavailable for deployment for several months after surgery—adding $504.3 million in cost to replace them. Service members who have had reassignment surgery or hormone therapy may actually be permanently non-deployable, because they require specialized medical care which may not be available everywhere in the world. Adding on similar costs for new recruits who identify as transgender yields a total estimated cost for the new transgender policy of nearly $2 billion ($1.88 billion) over ten years. (The additional administrative costs of preparing and overseeing individualized care plans for each service member who identifies as transgender, the costs of training the entire force regarding the new policy, and the loss of time associated with that training, have not been included in these estimates.)
Service members undergoing gender transition will also be permitted to take leave from the military for one full year prior to surgery, for a “real life experience” living as the desired gender. The cost of this lost time would total nearly $1.8 billion, for existing service members and new recruits, over ten years.
If these direct and indirect costs are all included, the total cost rises to $3.7 billion over ten years. Consider some examples of what that money could buy instead:
- 1 AEGIS Destroyer ($3.5 billion)
- 22 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Planes ($166.7 million each)
- 116 Chinook Helicopters ($31.8 million each); or
- 3,700 Tomahawk missiles ($1 million each).
Family Research Council has concerns about the psychological fitness of persons who identify as transgender to serve (because of high levels of psychopathology within that population), and about the effect of allowing people to present themselves as the opposite of their biological sex on good order and discipline, readiness, recruitment, and retention.
However, the financial costs alone are reason enough to put a halt to this policy. Both the Trump administration and Congress should act to postpone implementation of the July 1 transgender recruitment policy, and ultimately roll back a policy that promotes political correctness at the expense of military readiness.
Peter Sprigg is a Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.