The U.S. Army had to pay to get a high-ranking transgender Pentagon official to appear at its military academy on Transgender Day of Remembrance, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Department of the Army. The event, held at West Point, was organized by the Army’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, to “promote an environment of compassion and understanding” and memorialize “members of the transgender community across the globe who were murdered in the last year.” Instead of attending pro bono for the cause, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amanda Simpson, a former test pilot named Mitchell, required that her expenses be paid.
It cost the Army $1,099.92 to get Simpson, who also served as Executive Director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives, to be a guest speaker at the West Point transgender event. The Defense assistant secretary, who underwent a sex change about 20 years ago, gained notoriety during Barack Obama’s presidency as the highest ranking transgender appointee of any administration in history. Obama first appointed her to the Department of Commerce in 2009 and by 2013 Simpson was elevated to head the Army’s energy initiatives. In 2015 Simpson was sworn in as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, making her the highest openly transgender official at the Pentagon. As a man named Mitchell, Simpson obtained degrees in physics, engineering and business administration.
An estimated 35 people—20 cadets and 15 faculty—attended the West Point Transgender Day of Remembrance, which was held on November 30, 2016 at the military academy in New York. The only attendee that required government funding was the registered speaker (Simpson), the Army records state, because “all other attendees are local and will provide their own transportation to the event.” The records list “Ms. Amanda Simpson” as the only registered speaker and identify her as the highest ranking openly transgender official in President Obama’s administration. “Attendees will benefit from her sharing her experiences as both a transgender woman and senior ranking defense department official,” the records provided to Judicial Watch state.
A lengthy biography of Simpson is included as well as a pamphlet with a West Point masthead advertising the event. It features a picture of Simpson with a group of uniformed West Point cadets and a retired transgender Army colonel, Diane Schroer, in uniform. The Army also had to pay for Schroer to appear at the academy’s transgender affair in 2014, the records show. The pamphlet says that the purpose of the 2016 Simpson transgender celebration is “to promote an environment of compassion and understanding in accordance with USMA’s [United States Military Academy] diversity efforts by memorializing members of the transgender community across the globe who were murdered in the last year.”
The 2014 transgender event featuring Schroer was held to demonstrate “the Army’s commitment to supporting professional development opportunities that enhance West Point’s diversity and inclusion efforts.” Schroer was a decorated Airborne Ranger who transitioned from male to female after more than two decades of military service. It cost the Army $840.50 to have her speak, the records show. More than 40 cadets, staff and faculty paid respect to those who “were killed due to bias and hatred based on gender identity and expression,” according to a West Point newsletter with photos of the event. Several pages are entirely redacted as well as some of the names that appear throughout the records. The Army cites an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) known as (b)(6) which protects personnel and medical files from an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Even the captions identifying individuals in the West Point newsletter are redacted, though the pictures were left intact diminishing the credibility of the (b)(6) exemption argument. One of the “anticipated benefits” of Schroer’s appearance was to foster awareness in the West Point community about an Obama administration change in Department of Defense (DOD) policy allowing transgender people to openly serve in the military.