DoD Just Paid For A Soldier’s Gender-Reassignment Surgery. What Does It Mean For Trump’s Transgender Ban?


The Department of Defense covered the cost of an active-duty Army soldier’s gender-reassignment surgery on Nov. 14 after the operation was approved under a waiver, NBC News reports.

The soldier identifies as a woman, serves in the infantry, and earned her Combat Infantry Badge during Operation Anaconda — a 2002 battle between Taliban fighters and conventional U.S. combat troops in Paktia province, Afghanistan — according to a source close to the service member who spoke with NBC News.

The waiver was approved Nov. 13 by Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, the head of the Defense Health Agency, which handles medical care for active-duty troops.

"Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital," the Department of Defense said in a Nov. 14 statement, adding that the waiver was approved “because this service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary.”

News of the surgery comes four months after President Trump announced via Twitter his intention to enact a ban on transgender service members; in August, he signed a memo barring the Pentagon from enlisting transgender recruits and halting future funding for gender-reassignment surgery.

Related:  Trump’s Ban On Transgender Troops Is Reckless, Misguided, And, Frankly, Pretty Dumb »

Trump's surprise tweetstorm came just one month after Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave the service chiefs an additional six months to finish reviewing the impact of enlisting transgender service members, saying policy decisions must be weighed against one standard: Whether it impacts the military’s ability to defend the country.

Since the July announcement, the president’s proposed ban has sparked heated debate over whether the the commander in chief even has the constitutional authority to change the American military with the swipe of a smartphone screen (or the scribble of a pen, for that matter), as Task & Purpose’s Adam Weinstein reported earlier this year:

Every good mudfoot knows that the president is vested with the authority of commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces (and “the militia of the several states”) under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. But as the Center for New American Security’s Phillip Carter points out, authority over the actual composition of the military belongs to lawmakers thanks to the stipulation in Article I, Section 8 that Congress has the power to “raise and support armies …. provide and maintain a navy …[and] make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” Just as the president must seek congressional approval for declaring war and appointing inferior officers, so must lawmakers eventually approve changes to the armed forces.

And more hurdles have followed. Two weeks ago, a federal judge temporarily halted the ban, which was set to go into effect March 2018, ruling that the policy justification was likely unconstitutional and based on “disapproval of transgender people generally,” according to The New York Times.

Even before the Oct. 30 court decision, Trump’s transgender ban was facing opposition from within the military. After the president’s July 25 “policy by tweet” sent transgender service members scrambling for answers regarding their status in the armed forces, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford announced July 27 that, no, the military will not be changing policy based on a tweet.

On Aug. 29, Mattis announced that the DoD would establish a panel to “analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable,” related to transgender troops in the military. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place,” Mattis said in the statement.

Trump's transgender ban, which cited cost concerns and “disruption” to unit-cohesion as the principal reason for the policy’s implementation, has also faced pushback due to the fact that research doesn’t support those claims.

According to a 2016 study by The RAND Corporation, allowing transgender troops to serve openly in the military would have a “minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon. The report estimated that health care costs would rise from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which in the context of the overall defense budget, is an increase from 0.04% to 0.13%, The New York Times notes.

Focusing on the policies of four — out of 18 countries — which allow transgender personnel to serve openly, the study concluded that “in no case did the RAND team find evidence of an effect on operational effectiveness, operational readiness or cohesion.”


An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.

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Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.

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The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.

Then the rhythmic clapping begins.

This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.

"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.

"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."

Well, I feel better. How about you?

On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.

"We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told members of Congress of the 100+ escaped detainees. ISIS has about 18,000 "members" left in Iraq and Syria, according to recent Pentagon estimates.

A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."

"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.

President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.

"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."

The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."

Trump said that "small number of U.S. troops" would remain in Syria to protect oilfields.

Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

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