Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he stands behind President Donald Trump’s haphazard Twitter announcement last Wednesday that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity.”
“I totally support the President in his decision,” Perry, who served in the Air Force for five years, said late last week, according to the Texas Tribune. “The idea that the American people need to be paying for the types of operation to change your sex is not very wise from a standpoint of economics. … I think the President makes some good decisions about making sure that we have a force that is capable.”
In his Twitter announcement, Trump said he had consulted with “generals and military experts” and that he thinks the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
RAND Corporation produced a report in 2016, which was commissioned by the Pentagon, that estimated about 2,450 transgender people are among active duty troops. That same study predicted it would cost the government about $2.9 to $4.2 million a year to fund hormone therapy and surgeries.
Critics of the President’s unexpected policy announcement say the cost of hormone therapy and surgeries is minor compared to the estimated $84 million the military spends each year on prescriptions to treat erectile dysfunction.
When pressed about that comparison, Perry said he doesn’t “check on the price of Viagra.”
Perry’s support comes after bipartisan backlash against the announcement.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, put out a statement shortly after Trump’s announcement saying transgender individuals “should be allowed to continue serving.” He said no new policy decision is appropriate until the Department of Defense completes its study on medical obligations and “impact on military readiness” associated with allowing transgender individuals to serve.
Other GOP legislators came out against the policy change as well, including Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
The President’s announcement on the policy change took the Pentagon and members of the administration by surprise, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying there would be “no modifications” to the current policy until Trump provides guidance to the Department of Defense.
If his tweets are followed up with any type of formal policy, the move would reverse an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly and blocked a person from being discharged from the military solely because they are a transgender, according to policy on the Department of Defense’s website.
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