Washington: Defence Secretary James Mattis has signed a memorandum that allows transgender troops to serve in the military while he studies an order by President Donald Trump banning them from US forces.
His announcement comes barely a week after Trump signed a memorandum that banned recruiting transgenders in the US military, as he reversed a decision taken by his predecessor Barack Obama.
“Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction. In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place,” Mattis said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I expect to issue interim guidance to the force concerning the president’s direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued,” he said.
The Department of Defence, he said, has received the Presidential Memorandum, dated August 25, 2017, entitled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals”.
The Pentagon will carry out the president’s policy direction, in consultation with the department of homeland security, Mattis said.
“As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law,” he said.
He said the plan will address accessions of transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.
The focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield, he added.
“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.
Panel members will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgement to this task, Mattis added.
Meanwhile, as many as 140 American lawmakers yesterday urged Trump to reverse his order banning transgenders in the military.
“Implicitly, your ban denies the value of transgender service members, and it questions the professionalism of those who serve beside them. Our Armed Forces have grown more equal and more inclusive over time, often in the face of strident opposition,” the Representatives wrote.
Among the signatories were Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. (PTI)