Mattis attempts to normalize a severe mental disorder
The two collisions involving destroyers from the 7th Fleet were entirely predictable, in a statistical sense. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been warning for years that the Navy's attempt to cut costs by under-manning its ships is a false economy. Ships' crews have become permanently tired as the workload for running and maintaining their ships is spread across fewer staff. The last such report from the GAO was on May 18, titled "Navy Force Structure: Actions Needed to Ensure Proper Size and Composition of Ship Crews." The collision of the USS Fitzgerald with a merchant ship off Japan was one month later. If our naval ships can't cope with a large radar reflector moving at 18 knots, how are they going to cope with a supersonic anti-ship missile at Mach 3 when they have seconds to react?
Another false economy is the reduction in flying hours of Marine F-18s to below the level at which pilots maintain their flying proficiency in the aircraft type, with the result that the crash rate is higher than it should be.
Nevertheless, attempts to control costs in the Department of Defense (DOD) are laudable, and ship and aircraft accidents are testing the boundaries of cost reductions. In June 2016, the Obama administration added to the DOD's cost structure by allowing openly transgender staff to remain in the services instead of being automatically discharged. President Trump reversed that decision. It appears that President Trump was driven not by notions of morality and the like, but rather the cost of $100,000-odd per transgender trooper. His reaction was the normal reaction of a CEO finding out about an unnecessary operating cost in his organization.
Being transgender is recognized as a mental disorder. If you use suicide rate as the yardstick, being transgender is the worst mental disorder to be afflicted with. The lifetime attempted suicide rate of the general population is 4.1 percent. With the transgendered, it is 46 percent. This is much higher than the suicide rate for bipolar disorder of 30 percent attempted suicide and 15 percent successful suicide. Schizophrenics have a 20-percent attempted suicide rate and a 10-percent success rate. Male cross-dressers have a 21-percent attempted suicide rate.
All things considered, transgender personnel in the military are far more likely to die at their own hands than from enemy action. Unit cohesion and effectiveness of units with transgender members will be poor. On top of all that, having them is an unnecessary cost.
Secretary of defense James Mattis reacted to President Trump's directive, issued via Twitter, on transgender troops by saying that the DOD would wait for the written order. That duly came but contained the following clause:
... maintain the currently effective policy regarding accession of transgender individuals into military service beyond January 1, 2018, until such time as the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing ...
Instead of getting on with it, Mattis has used the words "provides a recommendation to the contrary" to establish a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations. If he wasn't going to stack that panel with people who will say there is no downside to transgender troops, why would he do it? The alternative would have been to start discharging the mentally ill, as per long-established practice.
The Navy has announced that it has ordered a broad investigation of the performance and readiness of the 7th Fleet, despite the fact that the GAO has been correctly stating what the problem is for years. In simple terms of cost, the DOD can have transgender troops or more officers to stand watch and thus avoid collisions, it can have transgender troops or more flying time for Marine Corps F-18s. The list is endless. If Mattis can't see that, then he is the wrong man for secretary of defense.
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.