Mattis delays Pentagon’s decision to allow transgender recruits six more months – Washington Post
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has delayed a plan approved by the Obama administration a year ago to begin allowing transgender recruits to join the U.S. military, providing the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a six-month reprieve that they requested, the Pentagon said Friday night.
The decision was made on the eve of a deadline set a year ago by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The services can now delay processing transgender recruits until Jan. 1, following another review of accession plans and providing information about how doing so will affect the military and its lethality, Mattis said in a memo. Details about that review must be provided back to Mattis by Dec. 1.
The defense secretary said in the memo that the delay “in no way presupposes an outcome,” but after consulting with top generals and other senior defense officials, he determined more time is needed before making a decision. He is confident, he said, that the Defense Department will continue to treat all service members with dignity and respect.
“Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis said. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.”
The current transgender policy, signed by Carter on June 30, 2016, banned the services from involuntarily separating people in the military who came out as transgender, and allowed the individuals to begin receiving medical care Oct. 1. But it also gave the Pentagon a year to determine how to begin processing new transgender recruits who want to serve.
Mattis’s decision was immediately decried by advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, who already had waited through a lengthy Pentagon view process that concluded last year. Meanwhile, a high-profile opponent to transgender people serving said the decision is welcome.
The delay “makes no sense,” considering that existing transgender service members have served successfully over the last year, said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a think tank that has helped the Pentagon with some research on sexuality. He said it will put transgender people who want to serve in the same position as gay people who wanted to serve during the now-repealed ban on open homosexual service known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“For the past year, transgender troops have been serving openly and have been widely praised by their Commanders, as is the case in 18 allied militaries around the world including Israel and Britain,” Belkin said in a statement. “Yet members of Congress are denigrating the value of military service by transgender troops, and Service Chiefs are pressuring Secretary Mattis to continue the transgender enlistment ban despite having no new arguments or data to back up their long-discredited assertions.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council, said that the Pentagon is “right to hit the brakes,” and said that the transgender policy signed last year will not improve the military’s ability to fight and win wars.
“Personnel who identify as transgender are expected to receive exceptions to policies and medical requirements that their peers will still be required to meet,” Boykin said. “These exceptions may be applied to policies about everything from physical and mental fitness standards to dress and presentation standards, and they create an unfairness that will undermine unit cohesion and morale.”