WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has pushed back the date on when transgenders will be formally permitted to enlist in the military, stating that the matter needs further consideration.
As previously reported, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on open transgenders last year and set July 1 as the deadline for the Armed Forces to implement the new military policy. In the meantime, troops have been undergoing policy briefings to advise soldiers of the various aspects surrounding the change, including that they might begin seeing men who identify as women, and visa versa, in their showers and bunks.
“Individuals undergoing cross-sex hormone therapy may experience changes to their body shape and physical strength, which may have a notable effect on their ability to maintain standards,” an implementation handbook released in September stated. “If that is the case, consult with the individual and the [military medical provider] as you would for any other service member with a medical condition affecting their ability to meet physical fitness standards.”
However, chiefs in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps recently sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting that the implementation deadline be delayed, noting that they needed additional time. Mattis agreed, stating that it must be determined whether or not the new policy will negatively affect military readiness.
“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months,” Mattis said in a memo on Friday. “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”
He moved a decision on the matter to December 1, but also advised that the delay “does not presuppose the outcome of the review.”
Word of the six-month halt drew mixed response, with transgender advocacy groups expressing disappointment.
“This six-month delay is disappointing because it unnecessarily delays the ability of transgender people to be open about their identity when entering the military,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, the president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement. “It has been unequivocally proven that allowing qualified transgender people to serve openly strengthens our military and creates a more inclusive and diverse force.”
However, Christian and family groups opined that Mattis should do away with the policy altogether.
“Spending billions of dollars on transgender surgeries and treatment plans, when the military has other priorities that would actually ensure its effectiveness in war, is irresponsible,” said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, who now works with Family Research Council.
“However, the cost to readiness, recruitment, retention, morale and cohesion will be even greater,” he continued. “Secretary Mattis and Congress need to ensure the priorities of the U.S. armed forces remain those that the secretary has outlined: mission readiness, command proficiency, and combat effectiveness. These should be the new priorities, not the last administration’s social engineering projects that ignore military readiness.”
According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 48 percent of Americans agree with the delay in the implementation of the policy.