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Pentagon chief Jim Mattis lets transgender troops remain in US military

On July 26, Donald Trump said on Twitter that the US government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity” in the military.

world Updated: Aug 30, 2017 19:22 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Washington
Pentagon,Jim Mattis,Transgender
A file photo of US secretary of defence Jim Mattis gives a news conference after a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Vidal/File Photo(Reuters)

US defence secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that transgender troops would continue to serve in the military while he studies an order by President Donald Trump banning them from US forces.

Trump surprised Pentagon leaders in July by announcing via Twitter the ban on transgender people serving “in any capacity”, reversing a plan launched by his predecessor Barack Obama that would see the military accept openly transgender recruits.

Trump said at the time that the integration of transgender troops would result in “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” and issued a formal memorandum last Friday on the issue, saying the ban should be in effect from March 23, 2018.

But the memorandum gave Mattis discretion on how to handle transgender people already serving in the military.

The administration was facing lawsuits by transgender groups and service members, and on Monday the American Civil Liberties Union also filed a suit on behalf of several transgender troops challenging Trump’s order.

In a statement Tuesday Mattis appeared cautious about implementing Trump’s order.

He said the Department of Defence would establish a panel of experts and develop an implementation plan with a focus “on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.”

In what appeared to be a barb against the slow movement in the White House to approve all the senior staff he needs, Mattis said “the soon arriving senior civilian leadership of the DOD will play an important role in this effort.”

In the meantime, he said, existing policy on currently serving transgender troops would not change.

On Monday Pentagon officials declined to say whether there had been any studies or anecdotal reports on the impact of transgender people in the military, and they also declined to reveal any estimates of the number of transgender troops. Estimates run from the low thousands to as many as 15,000.

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 19:21 IST

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