February 7, 2019

Trump’s Plan to Oust Transgender Troops Amidst Recruiting Shortfalls Spurs Bipartisan Congressional Response

Palm Center Responds to Today’s Legislation Protecting Inclusive Service

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – As the Pentagon weighs whether to institute a court-authorized ban on transgender service during a time of grave troop shortfalls, a group of lawmakers in the Senate and House today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that qualified Americans can serve. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are original co-sponsors in the Senate, while Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is joined in the House by original co-sponsors John Katko (R-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), and Joe Kennedy (D-MA).

The bill comes one day after a new government report warned of substantial shortfalls in military personnel, including those with “critical skills,” with officials from the Army saying “the primary reason why it has struggled to meet its authorized end strength is because it has had difficulty meeting recruiting goals.”

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, made the following comment:

“A shortage of qualified, mission-critical troops is no time to ban qualified, mission-critical troops and recruits who are eager to serve. By implementing the ban, the Pentagon would be shooting itself in the foot for no reason other than Trump-era politics.”

Last year a senior Pentagon official warned that Special Operations shortfalls could restrict which missions the force takes on, saying, “I think the trajectory is not good over the next few years.” He reported that the Army Special Forces were likely to sign up just 470 of the 685 service members it needed, or 69% of its target. The Army missed its recruiting goals last year by 6,500 soldiers, with severe potential consequences to readiness including over-taxing troops with more frequent deployments.

Two recent polls, by Quinnipiac and Dalia Research, found that 70% of respondents favor allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military. Top military officials have been overwhelmingly supportive of letting qualified transgender troops serve, including the chiefs of all the military service branches and, just this week, the assistant adjutant general of the California National Guard. Many such troops are featured on the Palm Center website. The Washington Post today editorialized against the Trump ban again, arguing that it hurts our military and those who serve our country.