The Telegraph, London, Associated Press, 1 July 2017
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is giving the military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Mr Mattis made the decision Friday. The delay in allowing the enlistment of new recruits does not affect transgender troops who are already serving openly in the military.
“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months,” Mr Mattis said in a memo that was sent Friday to the service chiefs and secretaries and was obtained by The Associated Press. “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”
In the memo, Mr Mattis said he believes the department must measure “each policy decision against one standard” — whether it affects the readiness of the military to defend the nation.
Mr Mattis’ decision formally endorses an agreement hammered out last week by the leaders of the four military services, which rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait. And it reflects the broader worry that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks told The AP.
The request for a delay was sent to Mr Mattis for a final decision last week.
Mr Mattis said the review by the services must be completed by Dec. 1, and he noted that his approval of a delay “does not presuppose the outcome of the review.” He said the additional time will ensure he has “the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials who are now arriving in the department.”
Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defence Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban, declaring it the right thing to do. Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.
But Mr Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months.
The military chiefs have argued they need more time to study the issue and its effects on the readiness of the force before taking that step.
According to officials familiar with the internal discussions, the chiefs believe the extra six months would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes military bases might have to make.