In his Twitter announcement Wednesday that transgender people would no longer be allowed in the armed forces, President Trump made much of his wish to reduce “costs and disruption” to the military.

But he has flouted the chain of command, blindsided top military officials and left thousands of troops wondering about their future – exactly the kind of disarray to be expected after an uninformed commander in chief tries to present major policy shifts in 140 characters. That’s far worse than the real-world harm he says he’s trying to prevent.

Transgender men and women have been allowed to serve openly in the military for about a year. The Rand Corp. estimated last year that there are 1,320 to 5,530 active-duty transgender service members and 1,500 transgender reservists.

Justifiably praised as the next step in a long-term Defense Department effort to lower barriers to service, the process of lifting the ban took place in steps.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for a review of the policy. In 2015, his successor, Ashton Carter, said the review was underway. In June 2016, the Rand study, commissioned by the Pentagon, concluded that allowing transgender people to serve openly would “have no significant impact on unit readiness.” Later that month, Carter announced: “Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly. They can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”

That incremental, collaborative approach, though, is foreign to President Trump. He’d rather take a grain of misinformation and turn it into an attention-grabbing directive designed to shed a lot of heat and no light. In one of his series of tweets Wednesday, for example, he points to “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” that transgender service members entail.

The president didn’t offer any numbers to back up his claim. But the Rand researchers have solid data – and they’ve estimated that gender transition-related care for active-duty service members would cost the military health system an extra $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year. By contrast, according to a Military Times analysis, the Pentagon spends $84 million a year on erectile dysfunction medications alone.

Transgender medical treatment would amount to just 0.004 percent to 0.017 percent of annual Defense Department health care spending – a small price to pay for helping service members not just survive, but also thrive.

Trump didn’t hesitate to leave military officials in the dark about his proposal. Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis (who privately opposed the move, according to Politico) was on vacation when Trump tweeted the ban, and spokesmen referred all questions about the policy change to the White House, The Washington Post reported. The Joint Chiefs of Staff weren’t consulted; in a memo first reported by Reuters, Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford said the military has made no changes as a result of the declared ban.

“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of Defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Dunford wrote in a message to the heads of all four service branches and the senior enlisted leaders. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

Will Trump follow the normal channels that Dunford outlined? For all of the president’s professed allegiance to the people he calls “my generals and military experts,” Trump does what he wants to do. And if it’s a choice between putting service members’ careers at risk and possibly subjecting his practically and morally unsound proposal to review and criticism, we’re afraid we’re pretty sure which path he’ll take.

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