Each Tomahawk missile runs up a bill of up to $8.8 million. Credit: DVIDSHUB/Flickr.com

When President Donald Trump tweeted last week that he will ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, he cited “disruption” and “tremendous medical costs.”

Yet according to a recent study, those costs might not be as high as Trump suggested. On the contrary, RAND Corp., a think tank that conducts research for the U.S. military, claimed they would be “relatively low.”

And according to the Defense Department’s own estimates, annual health care for transgender individuals could cost about as much as one Tomahawk missile, .03 percent of one submarine, or .018 percent of annual spending on the war in Afghanistan.

Trump’s decision, though seemingly abrupt, was intertwined with a spending bill packed with the president’s campaign promises, Politico reported. Hawkish Republicans had threatened to tank the bill unless Trump immediately took a firm stance on transgender service members.

So he did:





No one seems to know the exact number of transgender people in the armed forces. But within RAND Corp.’s estimates, there are between 1,320 and 6,630 of them, with hormone treatments and surgeries being estimated to number in the dozens. The cost for health care, therefore, would likely land somewhere between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, RAND estimated.

“Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy,” RAND’s authors wrote. The Defense Department, they added, should “ensure strong leadership and identify and communicate the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce.”

For context: In May, the United States Department of Defense requested $639.1 billion for its 2018 fiscal year budget. The proposal, which aims to help America’s armed forces “get bigger and more lethal,” offers an itemized accounting of proposed upgrades, many of which dramatically exceed the total cost of estimates for transgender health care.

A sampling:

One Tomahawk missile

The Department of Defense requested 34 of these long-range missiles for the fiscal year, each one running up a bill of up to $8.8 million. (In a separate report, the Navy put the cost of them at $2.3 million each.) Trump launched nearly 60 of these missiles in one night at a Syrian air base in April.

One attack helicopter

The Army this year requested 61 AH-64E attack helicopters, each at a cost of nearly $23 million – up from nearly $22 million in 2017’s budget request. In March, Boeing and the government signed a $3.4 billion contract for 268 of these helicopters, which have been in service for 37 years.

0.03 percent of one submarine

The Department of Defense ordered two Virginia Class submarines, each of which cost $2.75 billion. Even a lower estimate in the Navy’s budget pegged these submarines at $1.6 billion. Used to attack service ships, the Virginia Class is the “next-generation” submarine employed by the Navy.

5.4 percent of an F-35 joint strike fighter

One wing? One wheel? The F-35 program was supposed to produce the most advanced fighter jet in the world. Instead, it is nearly a decade behind schedule and will cost the United States roughly $1.5 trillion – or a cool $154.3 million per fighter the military requested this year. Even a lower estimate provided by the Navy would set taxpayers back almost $99 million per jet.

0.018 percent of annual spending on the war in Afghanistan

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, and will spend $45.9 billion while deploying 8,448 troops in the 2018 fiscal year. Trump recently suggested he wants to keep the U.S. at war in the country because of the profit that mineral mining could bring.

31 small-diameter bombs

The United States ordered more than 5,000 small-diameter bombs for $400 million. These devices weigh 250 pounds each and can be deployed only on one aircraft in the fleet, the F-15 E Strike Eagle. Using a lower estimate from the Navy, it could be 36 bombs.

Erectile dysfunction

OK, this one’s not in the budget request. But according to the Military Times, the Department of Defense spent more than $84 million on ED medicine – and nearly $42 million on Viagra alone. At the most, that’s exactly 35 times more than the military would spend on transgender health care. Even a lowball estimate puts it at 10 times more.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.