Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday approved a six-month delay in allowing transgender recruits to join the U.S. armed forces, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement that Mattis accepted a recommendation to defer transgender applicants until Jan. 1.
The Pentagon ended its ban on openly transgender people serving in the U.S. military in 2016 under the Barack Obama administration. It was expected to start allowing transgender people to begin enlisting this year, provided they had been “stable” in their preferred gender for 18 months.
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited a study by the RAND Corporation saying there were about 2,500 transgender active-duty service members and 1,500 reserve transgender service members. Rand’s figures were within a range, which at the upper end reached 7,000 active duty forces and 4,000 reserves.
From the Human Rights Campaign:
“Once this important policy is implemented, it will strengthen our military by allowing qualified and talented transgender people to enlist or commission,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine veteran discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity. We are disappointed in this needless delay because the thousands of highly trained and qualified transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today have proven that what matters is the ability to accomplish the mission, not their gender identity.”
From the Palm Center:
“Secretary Mattis’s decision to prolong the enlistment ban will have the effect of requiring applicants to lie in order to join the military, as was the case under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ That makes no sense because, as predicted by all of the research, transgender military service has been a success.
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. 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.
Mattis’ decision came after this:
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler says that allowing transgender soldiers to serve costs taxpayers too much money. The Obama administration issued a directive in its final year that enabled transgender troops to undergo gender reassignment surgery and continue to serve rather than face an automatic discharge.
Hartzler, a Republican whose district covers central and western Missouri, wants to reverse that policy and pointed to the cost of the surgery as the reason. “The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing defense dollars into addressing budget shortfalls of the past,” Hartzler said in a statement.
A RAND Corporation study last year found that the cost of surgeries and hormone treatments could lead to a .13 percent increase in health care costs for the military. The study also found that Australia, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom saw no impact to operational effectiveness from allowing transgender soldiers to serve.