Pentagon freezes trans ban
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has announced a freeze on the implementation of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying he will establish a panel of experts to provide advice on how to carry out the directive.
The Pentagon has confirmed the move, saying that it would first develop a study and implementation plan “as directed” by Mr Trump in a memorandum on Friday.
New political appointees at the Defence Department “will play an important role in this effort,” the statement said.
The plan will address both the potential for transgender people looking to serve in the military for the first time, and transgender troops already serving.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mr Mattis said.
“To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the departments of Defence and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the President’s direction.”
The Pentagon chief said that after the panel made its recommendations and he consulted with the Secretary of Homeland Security, he would provide his advice to Mr Trump. In the meantime, policy regarding transgender service members would remain in place, Mr Mattis said, meaning that those serving can continue to do so.
On Friday, the White House announced that it was moving forward with Mr Trump’s transgender ban as hurricane Harvey roared towards Texas.
Mr Trump said in a memorandum he wanted the Pentagon “to return to the longstanding policy and practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June last year until such time as a sufficient basis exists” to conclude that allowing them to serve would not have negative effects.
The memorandum gave Mr Mattis until February 1 to present a plan to Mr Trump on how to implement the transgender ban, and what to do with transgender service members already serving. Those marked some of the first details the White House provided on how to carry out Mr Trump’s decision, which initially took many Pentagon officials by surprise when he announced it on Twitter on July 26.
The Obama administration repealed its ban on transgender service members last year.
Mr Trump’s ban has prompted lawsuits that challenge its constitutionality and rebukes from Democrats in Congress.