Thomas W. Spoehr

I used to think that armed services generals had to be pretty sober critical thinkers. Then along came Michael Flynn and a few others. Retired General Thomas W. Spoehr is one of those on my wingnut list.

According to Spoehr: Pentagon’s New Policy on Gender-Transitioning Service Members Is an Unforced Error.

To put this in perspective Thomas W. Spoehr has had administrative responsibilities in a support role in contrast to leading troops in combat.

For the nearly two years ended July, 2013 his responsibility was to “[d]evelop and defend the Army’s Five Year Financial Plan.” Thereafter, up until retirement, Spoehr was Director, Office of Business Transformation.

Getting back to his essay, just how many transgender troops does Spoehr think are in the military? Noting that a new DoD policy was released Thursday, Spoehr sees demons:

Under this new transition policy, individuals are expected to obtain a diagnosis from the military medical system that gender transition is necessary, and then present that information to their commanders. Under the policy, commanders then must act on that request within 90 days.

It’s a bit more complicated than that (the linked document, above, has internal bookmarks making it easy to navigate). Nevertheless, that is a decent summary. Two things are required:

  1. A diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
  2. A diagnosis indicating that gender-affirmation is necessary which is dependent upon an assessment of the severity of the condition.

So             what?

Spoehr says that the money is the problem:

Once transgender individuals receive a diagnosis that a gender transition is “medically necessary,” they will receive the associated medical care and treatment at taxpayer expense.

Common gender transition medical treatments presumably authorized under this policy would include “hormone therapy; chest, face, genital or other gender affirming surgeries; hair removal; speech therapy; and fertility preservation.”

Again, so             what? When RAND Corporation did an independent analysis on behalf of the Pentagon, they concluded:

  • Using private health insurance claims data to estimate the cost of extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel indicated that active-component health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.
  • 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.

In other words, the costs are insignificant, especially compared to the benefits which RAND describes (emphasis added):

The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness. Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.

Again I ask, so             what? The same people said that Earth’s rotation would reverse if gay people were permitted to serve. RAND notes that the inclusion of gay servicemembers “[has] had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”

The Spoehr has more to explore:

The policy also states that once an individual’s request to change gender is approved, their administrative record will be changed to reflect that new gender, and the service member must then immediately adhere to the new standards for uniforms, grooming, physical readiness testing, and body composition.

Uh huh. I won’t ask the same question again. It is implied.

Although the policy states that commanders are expected to “ensure readiness by minimizing impacts to the mission,” the policy is silent on how commanders are supposed to accomplish that task when service members go absent for significant periods of time to recover from medical treatments or to receive associated counseling.

Come on. Counseling is in addition to their responsibilities. Absences will occur only following gender confirmation surgery. Most transgender persons do not have the procedure. A greater percentage of service members might opt for surgery because cost is not a factor. Yet we are talking about a tiny population.

The minuscule number of transgender military personnel is far — substantially — fewer than female personnel who get pregnant. At some point I am certain that the same argument was made in opposition to women serving.

The difference is that pregnant women do not defy literalist views of scripture.

Regarding Trump’s ban on transgender service in order to pander to his evangelical base:

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis developed that policy over the course of six months of study, during which he consulted with a team of medical experts and military leaders.

According to the Mattis memo, the decision had already been made:

While this review was ongoing, on August 25. 2017, you sent me and the Secretary of
homeland Security a memorandum expressing your concern that the previous administration’s
new policy –failed to identify a sufficient basis .. for changing longstanding policy and that
.. further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year·s policy change
would not have … negative effects.” You then directed the Department of Defense and the
Department of Homeland Security to reinstate the preexisting policy concerning accession of
transgender individuals …

It seems clear, from the memo, that Mattis was ordered to justify a decision that had already been made. Come on. This was Donald Fucking Trump we are talking about.

Tell me that this does not sound familiar. Most of the transphobia that I see every day is re-tooled homophobia:

Biden’s order set that policy aside, seemingly disregarding the dangers, thus exposing individuals already at greater risk from mental harm to the extreme stresses of military duty. His new policy also jeopardizes military readiness by introducing individuals who may, through no fault of their own, let their comrades down at the moment of greatest need.

It doesn’t seem to be a problem in Israel which is in a constant state of war.

Spoehr is somewhat repetitive. Last December he provided transphobic vomit that was contradicted by the very article he cited.

The bottom line is that this has nothing whatsoever to do with military service. Thomas W. Spoehr does not approve of LGBTQ people, transgender persons in particular.