President Donald Trump has been vague on details of his plan to bar transgender people from serving in the military, but Tuesday his Defense Secretary James Mattis made it clear that, for now, there will be no action on the commander-in-chief’s directive.
Trump had tweeted in July that “after consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
Trump on Friday directed the military not to move forward with an Obama-era plan that would have allowed transgender individuals to be recruited, but allowed commanders leeway in dealing with transgender individuals already serving in the military.
In a statement released Tuesday, Mattis said the Department of Defense received the president’s Aug. 25 memo entitled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals.” The secretary said presidential policy would be carried out in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security but study is required before further action can be implemented.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield. To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction. Panel members will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task. The panel will assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable. Further information on the panel will be forthcoming,” Mattis said in the statement.
“Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction,” Mattis continued. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.”
It’s not clear how the military would screen potential transgender recruits. Mattis said he expects to issue interim guidance to military leaders concerning the president’s directive, but no timetables were provided.
According to the Trump memo, Mattis has until Feb. 1 to present a full plan.
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