Exclusive: Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Amanda Simpson, on Trump

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Operational Energy) at U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Image courtesy of Simpson

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On Wednesday morning, after tweets from President Donald Trump announced the barring of transgender individuals from military service, transgender leaders, allies, and veterans throughout the world, including Tampa-based NAVY Seal Kristin Beck, spoke out about the shocking decision.

Caitlyn Jenner even took to Twitter voicing her disappointment, a shift from her usual support for her candidate of choice.

On Wednesday evening, Amanda Simpson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, shared her perspectives.

“This isn’t just a trans issue,” said Simpson. “This is about the Commander-in-Chief turning his back on a commitment this country made to service members.”

“Our commander-in-chief has broken a long standing sacred trust and commitment with our service members who have pledged their lives to protect this country and have served with honor and distinction.”

As the first openly transgender woman U.S. Presidential appointee, Amanda Simpson has held several public roles throughout her decorated career.

As a young adult, Simpson had been recruited by the Navy to be a Navy Nuclear Officer. Although not out at the time, she declined the offer knowing that she wouldn’t be able to live authentically if she accepted the role with the Navy. “In the 1980’s I wanted to join the military but I knew I was transgender.”

Amanda Simpson
Amanda R. Simpson, executive director of the Office of Energy Initiatives in the U.S. Army discussed her experiences as the first openly transgender woman political appointee of any presidential administration with USAID employees in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2015. (USAID photo by Robb Hohmann).

Still, she served her country, progressing through a series of high-ranking political roles.

In late 2009, Simpson was appointed by the Obama Administration to serve in the Department of Commerce as the Senior Technical Adviser to the Bureau of Industry and Security. She spent nearly 30 years prior in the private sector as an aerospace engineer and flight instructor.

In 2011 she moved to the Pentagon filling a senior advisory position within the Army acquisition corps.

In 2014, she became the Executive Director of the US Army Office of Energy Initiatives, leading the Army’s efforts to implement large-scale renewable energy projects.

And in September 2015, Simpson became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, which involved securing the energy required for training, moving, and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations.

Simpson served until the end of the Obama Administration.

“When you work for the military, you pledge your life to serve this country and in return, our military says, ‘I will take care of you and your family.’ The latest announcement says, ‘Thank you for your service, but we don’t want you anymore.'”

According to Simpson, there are hundreds of open trans Americans serving in the US military around the world. “They are doing so with honor and distinction.”

“Now, if you are trans, you don’t get the opportunity of health benefits that comes with serving this country.”

Simpson also voiced her concerns over the future of the military and the rights of others currently serving.

According to Simpson, only 17% of Americans between ages of 17-26 are eligible to serve in the military at any given time for a variety of reasons, and while the number of transgender individuals currently serving in the US military isn’t confirmed, the latest announcement has an impact. “We keep shrinking those who are eligible.”

“This isn’t just a message sent to people currently serving. This message is sent to future recruits. This will hurt recruiting.”

Facebook and Twitter exploded on Wednesday with opinions and questions from all perspectives. One of the more common themes involved speculation over the number of transgender military personnel currently serving.

“This is not a numbers game,” says Simpson. “This is about telling Americans that ‘if you are able and capable of serving our nation, you should be able to.'”

“What’s next? We’ve just opened combat roles for women in our military. Will it be women next? Will it be Muslims next, because they’re not seen as supporting American values.”

“How will this affect civilians serving our military? What about defense contractors who service our military around the world?”

“It is the anniversary of President Truman integrating the military with African Americans and this is the day we tell service members that their service is no longer required?”

In response to social media statements that transgender individuals are a distraction, Simpson says, “I think there are some people in the military who aren’t comfortable, just like there are people uncomfortable with women in combat roles, or African Americans, or Muslims.

“When it comes down to it, Barry Goldwater says it best: ‘It doesn’t matter if the guy in the foxhole is gay or straight. It’s whether they can shoot straight.’ It also doesn’t matter what’s between their legs. Can they perform the job?”

A cisgender man on Facebook, who defended the military’s decision, claimed that transgender women would have an upper hand when it comes to job promotion opportunities, due to their strength over fellow female military personnel. Simpson firmly defended the military by stating, “The military doesn’t promote based on gender.”

Several Trump supporters emphasized their concerns over healthcare costs of trans military personnel, referrencing Trump’s morning tweet.

“The truth is that the cost of healthcare for transgender individuals is less than what the US spends on a weekend trip for Trump to go to Mar A Largo,” argues Simpson.

Simpson is currently in Kazakhstan as a guest of the State Department talking about energy and renewables. “I’m here doing my job as an expert consultant on energy issues. I’m not here as a trans person. I’m here as an American who has this expertise. What is Trump saying to countries around the world?”

Simpson emphasizes that support can’t only come from transgender and LGBT community members. “It needs to come from Veterans and both former and current military personnel.”

Simpson encourages everyone to take a stand, even those on opposing party lines.

“Readers shouldn’t be thinking, ‘this doesn’t affect me.’ Everyone should be telling everyone because it could affect them.”

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