Pentagon & Congress

Transgender service members can re-enlist while review continues

WASHINGTON — Transgender service members can re-enlist if their service contracts expire while the Defense Department continues studying the implementation of President Trump’s directive banning their service, according to Col Robert Manning, the Pentagon spokesperson.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis released interim guidance yesterday directing Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva to lead in developing an implementation plan to address transgender service, according to Manning.

“The implementation plan will establish the policy, standards and procedures to address military service by transgender individuals of the military, Manning told reporters.

That plan “will be supported by a panel of experts,” Manning said.

The panel will provide recommendations to Mattis “that are supported by appropriate evidence and information,” Manning explained.

The panel will include military undersecretaries, service vice chiefs and senior enlisted service advisers, according to Manning.

Shanahan and Selva will be responsible for designating civilian experts, experts with combat experience, and individuals with expertise in military operational effectiveness, Manning said.

Moreover, “the panel may obtain advise from outside experts on an individual basis,” at the discretion of the deputy secretary and vice chairman, Manning added.

The implementation plan will be submitted to the White House no later than Feb. 21, according to Manning.

Current transgender service members will continue to serve and will still receive medical treatment as prescribed by their medical providers, Manning said.

In July, Trump tweeted out a call for a ban on transgender service members. The tweet caused considerable backlash from transgender people now serving in the armed forces and push back from some Pentagon officials. Defense leaders refused to make any policy changes in the absence of an official memorandum from the White House.

The Trump administration provided that guidance to the Pentagon in August. It would ban transgender recruits from entering the service and halt medical treatment for gender reassignment.

However, the memo directed the Pentagon to conduct a study before implementation of the President’s memorandum, leaving open the possibility that transgender service members could enter and serve in the armed services.

Much of the debate has centered around medical costs and deployability of transgender troops, with opponents of transgender service saying the Obama-era policy impacts operational readiness.

However, a Rand study conducted under the Obama administration in 2016 found the costs to be very low. Moreover, 18 countries already have transgender service members with few reported impacts on operational readiness.

That study was used by the Obama White House to allow transgender service members to serve openly. A new policy from the Trump administration is likely to impact thousands of transgender service members.

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