Study: Transgender troops ban could cost $960M

By Allen Cone
Demonstrators hold up signs in support of transgender troops outside Capitol Hill on July 26. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI
Demonstrators hold up signs in support of transgender troops outside Capitol Hill on July 26. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- If the U.S. military implements President Donald Trump's directive to ban transgender people from serving, it would cost the U.S. government about $960 million, according to a report.

The study released by the Palm Center estimates the cost to replace the transgender service members would be 114 times more than the $8.4 million to provide them care for gender transition.


"President Trump said that he wants to fire honorably serving transgender troops in order to save money, but that begs the question, 'How much money would it cost to implement the president's vision?'" Palm Center executive director Aaron Belkin said. "It would be much more expensive to fire transgender troops then to let them keep serving. The president wants to spend $1 to save a dime, and that really doesn't make much business sense."


The other three co-authors are current and retired professors at the Naval Postgraduate School: Frank J. Barrett, Mark J. Eitelberg and Marc J. Ventresca.

The San Francisco-based Palm Center is a research institute focused on dialogue about critical and controversial public policy issues. It estimates the number of transgender service members at 12,000.

To come up with the $960 million estimate, the authors multiplied the number of those service members by the average cost of recruiting and training a replacement for those discharged. The transition-related healthcare figures came from the Rand Corp.

They also considered the work of a Blue Ribbon Commission in 2006 consisting of a former secretary of defense and other military experts who estimated the cost of implementing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality at $363.8 million, or $38,872 per person.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office issued a report on costs associated with "don't ask, don't tell" over six years, 2004-09. It estimated the cost of discharging 3,664 service members for homosexuality was $193.3 million, or $52,800 per separation.

The number of transgender service members and their healthcare costs vary with other sources.

Rand estimates the number of transgender service members at 1,300; the Williams Institute of Law estimates 15,500.


The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, estimates direct and indirect costs of allowing transgender people to serve be $3.7 billion over 10 years.

In the Palm Center study, the authors determined the average annual cost of providing transition-related care for the entire population of transgender troops is $656 per transgender service member per year. It noted most transgender personnel don't require transition-related care for their entire military careers.

Trump announced a ban on transgender service members in a tweet on July 26:: "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

A day later, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford issued a letter that the policy would not be changed until the White House issued further "guidance."

On Wednesday, five unnamed military service members filed suit against Trump and other top military brass over the directive.

On Monday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that the White House had still not provided policy guidance on the matter and the Pentagon was still studying it.


"The policy is going to address whether or not transgenders can serve under what conditions, what medical support they require, how much time would they be perhaps non-deployable leaving others to pick up their share of everything. There's a host of issues and I'm learning more about this than I ever thought I would and it's obviously very complex to include the privacy issues which we respect," Mattis said.

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