Sunday, July 16, 2017

Misinformation on National Defense Authorization Act by Justin Amash

There’s an astonishing level of misinformation and disinformation about a certain amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, so I want to provide some clarity.
On July 13, the House voted on an amendment offered by Rep. Hartzler. The amendment says that “[f]unds available to the Department of Defense may not be used to provide medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition to a person entitled to medical care” under the military health system.
My staff and I carefully reviewed this amendment, as well as the facts and circumstances surrounding it, and I concluded that the right thing to do was to vote no. Consider the following:
1. The NDAA says nothing about transgender persons or their medical treatment. These subjects are not addressed in the bill. Voting no on an amendment cannot add these subjects to the bill. Most Republicans were happy to vote for the bill before they knew the Hartzler Amendment existed, and they were happy to vote for the bill after the Hartzler Amendment was rejected.
2. The Department of Defense (DoD) adopted a policy in 2016 regarding medical treatment for transgender persons. This policy allows treatment only when it’s “medically necessary,” and the Trump administration has continued the policy. Sec. of Defense Mattis delayed until January 1, 2018, a portion of the policy—related to the further enlistment of transgender persons—that had not yet gone into effect when Pres. Trump took office.
3. Sec. Mattis and the White House contacted Congress to urge us not to adopt the Hartzler Amendment to the NDAA. They are reviewing the entire policy and want an opportunity to present a new policy before Congress weighs in. As a retired general, Sec. Mattis knows a lot more than most members of Congress about how to build a strong and ready force.
4. The NDAA is an authorization bill for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2017. Sec. Mattis is expected to present a new policy, if at all, by January 1, 2018. In other words, the Trump administration is asking for only three additional months under the current policy.
So, let’s summarize: The NDAA says nothing about transgender persons. The Trump administration can keep or change the current policy at its discretion. Sec. Mattis and the White House urged us not to adopt the Hartzler Amendment. And all the administration wants is three months to review everything.
Given the facts, circumstances, and eminently reasonable request from the Trump administration, it was not a difficult decision to vote no on this amendment. After Sec. Mattis announces the DoD’s finalized policy, we can discuss the policy with him, evaluate it, and seek changes if necessary.
Those who serve in our Armed Forces deserve the best medical care. One question we must ask and answer, with the aid of the medical community, is which treatments are medically necessary and which are simply elective. With respect to transgender persons, we should focus on the best science, not the political or philosophical opinions of partisans.
Finally, service in all aspects of our Armed Forces cannot be guaranteed to everyone. The job of our Armed Forces is to defend our country, and the DoD should be given more leeway than other parts of the executive branch with respect to personnel decisions.