The Trump administration’s claim that it would struggle to train tens of thousands of personnel by Jan. 1 in order to process new transgender recruits, and the rush to do that could damage the military, is “suspicious,” according to a policy paper by three former top military medical officials.
Preparing more than 23,000 military recruiters and medical evaluators for the recruiting ordered to begin in two weeks by federal courts would not be difficult or time-consuming, former surgeons general of the Navy and Army and a former Coast Guard director of health and safety wrote in the paper set to be published by the Palm Center rights group Monday.
Recruiters, who account for about 20,000 of the group to be trained, could be readied by sending a one-page instruction to their stations and evaluators require about four hours of training, according to the paper.
“The administration’s claims are suspicious because training recruiters and medical evaluators to process applications from transgender candidates is neither complicated nor time-consuming,” the former officials wrote.
Federal courts in Washington, D.C., and Maryland ordered the Pentagon to proceed with plans put in place under then-President Barack Obama to begin accepting transgender enlistees on Jan. 1, but the Justice Department is still seeking emergency relief so Defense Secretary Jim Mattis can delay the change. President Trump called for a complete ban on transgender individuals serving in the military this summer, and Mattis has formed a working group tasked with writing a specific policy to match Trump's directive.
Previous coverage: Trump's transgender military ban enters a new legal thicket
The requirement to train “tens of thousands” of personnel and the argument it will cause potential damage to military readiness have been laid out in filings in both courts by the Justice Department and Lernes Hebert, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.
The personnel include 20,367 recruiters, 2,785 employees at military entrance processing stations, or MEPS, and service medical waiver authorities, as well as personnel at boot camps and the military hospitals that support them, according to the filings.
“Given the complexity of the interdisciplinary medical standards that need to be issued and the number of geographically dispersed individuals that need to be carefully trained on those standards, the [Defense] Department would not be adequately and properly prepared to begin processing transgender applicants on Jan. 1, 2018,” the administration argued using Hebert’s declaration to the court. “Put simply, compliance with the district court’s Jan. 1 deadline will impose extraordinary burdens on the military and have a harmful impact on its missions and readiness.”
However, the policy paper obtained exclusively by the Washington Examiner refutes the administration’s claim that Defense Department personnel need in-depth knowledge of transgender medical standards.
“Recruiters require no training to process transgender applicants, because the only points recruiters need to understand are that qualified transgender people are permitted to serve, and that recruiters should process their paperwork the same way they process paperwork for everyone else,” the former officials wrote.
The authors of the paper are retired Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, who served as Navy surgeon general during the George W. Bush administration; Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, who was acting Army surgeon general during the Bush administration; and retired Rear Adm. Alan Steinman, who served as Coast Guard director of health and safety, which is that service's equivalent to surgeon general, during the Clinton administration.
Military medical examiners need very little training because the transgender enlistment standards were created to be evaluated the same as all other medical histories, they wrote.
That training would entail a slide show, discussion of the enlistment regulations, a medical definition of gender dysphoria and treatment, and a question-and-answer session.
“For all of these reasons, the training that MEPS medical personnel undergo to learn how to evaluate transgender candidates is only four hours long,” they wrote.