Trump announcement on transgender troops surprises Pentagon

The Pentagon in Arlington, Va., outside Washington, DC is seen in this aerial photograph, April 23, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
The Pentagon in Arlington, Va., outside Washington, DC is seen in this aerial photograph, April 23, 2015. 

Ordinarily, when pundits talk about the White House's communications problems, they're referring to Donald Trump and his team struggling to stick to an honest and consistent message. But this morning we were reminded of a different kind of White House communications problem.

The Pentagon seems to have been unaware that President Donald Trump has decided to bar transgender people from the military.A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, refused to answer questions about what Trump's tweeted announcement means for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out."Call the White House," he said.

It looks like the president just banned thousands of transgender troops without coordinating with the Defense Department. The White House also didn't offer the Senate Armed Services Committee a heads-up, either.

And I don't imagine anyone finds this is especially surprising. Trump picked a new FBI director without coordinating with the Justice Department. Trump makes foreign policy decisions without running them by the State Department. When Trump launched his Muslim ban, the Department of Homeland Security wasn't at all clear on how to implement the president's vision.

The president sees himself as a CEO, which is a flawed model for the head of a federal executive branch, but it's especially problematic given that Trump looks at his administration as a small business instead of a large one.

As a candidate, Trump sold himself to voters as the head of a big and successful private-sector enterprise, but what went largely overlooked was the fact that the Trump Organization has always been a modest operation.

Mr. Trump often boasts of the size of the Trump Organization. "It's a big company," he said in the interview last spring. A spokeswoman said the business employed "tens of thousands."But industry experts estimate that no more than 4,000 people work for the Trump Organization worldwide. And executives say that the three floors that make up the headquarters appear to have no more than 150 employees.It is a family business, as everyone involved is quick to explain.

It's not as if Trump ran a major American company like General Electric, with hundreds of thousands of employees and multiple divisions, tackling a variety of complex operations. Rather, he oversaw a more modest company, with a small workforce, which left him plenty of time to become a television personality.

So when Trump makes important decisions about American troops, it doesn't occur to him to coordinate with the relevant policymakers -- in part because the president doesn't know how government works and in part because he's not accustomed to thinking in any other way.