WASHINGTON — Transgender troops can continue to serve pending a study and recommendation from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
The DoD has received Trump’s memorandum on transgender service members and will implement the president’s policy direction, according to a prepared statement from Mattis.
“As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law,” Mattis said.
The ban contains some exceptions and empowers Mattis to decide fates of those transgender personnel already in uniform.
The Defense Department will work in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and soon arriving senior government officials, according to Mattis.
“The implementation plan will address accessions of transgender individuals and transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military,” Mattis added.
Mattis plans to create a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations to best implement the policy.
“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,” Mattis said.
Once the panel completes its analysis, Mattis will provide his recommendation to the president after consultation with the DHS. However, the current policy with regards to already serving transgender service members will remain in place for the time being.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said.
Trump’s transgender ban has been controversial. Several advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have filed lawsuits against the ban.
Active-duty transgender troops say a policy change that puts them at risk of being removed and indefinitely bars transgender people from enlisting in the military is a step backward for civil rights that will promote inequality in the armed forces.
“Each and every claim made by the President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process,” Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement reported by Military Times. “Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander in chief.”
The implementation of the White Houses’s memorandum titled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals” will affect thousands of transgender service members who were allowed to serve openly under Obama administration rules issued back in 2016.