- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pentagon officials, like much of the Washington establishment, scrambled Wednesday to deal with President Trump’s surprise reversal of the Obama-era policy of allowing transgendered individuals to serve in the military, including the sticky question of what to do with transgendered service members currently within the military’s ranks and on the front lines in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation outside of Washington when Mr. Trump tweeted his decision. Mr. Mattis had just announced a six-month review earlier this month on the way ahead on the controversial policy. Mr. Trump’s decision effectively short-circuits that effort.

The Obama administration’s decision to open its ranks to transgendered service members was one of several personnel decisions critics claimed were designed to impose political correctness into the Defense Department. Other decisions, such as ending the ban on openly gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the armed forces and opening combat roles to female service members, were also seen as part of the Obama White House’s efforts.

But it was clear the military did not have a clear path ahead as Mr. Trump went public with his decision.

“We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander-in-chief on transgendered individuals serving in the military. We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future,” a Pentagon statement issued Wednesday advised.

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he acted “in consultation with my generals and military experts,” and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration was already working with the Pentagon and service leaders on a way to “legally” separate the thousands of transgendered active duty service members and reservists from the military.

How many service members will be affected is a matter of debate. A 2016 RAND Corp. study, considered the most extensive to date, gave an estimate range of between 1,320 and 6,630 transgendered military personnel out of a total of about 1.3 million service members, while private LGBT activist groups say the real number could be 15,000 or more.

Command officials at Fort Bragg, home of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said they would adhere to any and all Pentagon guidance on the reversal of the department’s transgender policy, but acknowledged, “At this time we have not received any change in policy guidance with respect to transgenders.”

Mr. Mattis, along with a number of senior Pentagon officials, reportedly had been forewarned about the administration’s announcement. However, a majority of the Pentagon’s senior staff, as well as the heads of the various service branches, were left in the dark. Ashton Carter, President Obama’s last defense secretary, who helped end the previous ban on service by transgendered individuals, sharply criticized Mr. Trump’s move Wednesday.

President Trump dissolved the Pentagon’s transgender policy in a flurry of tweets early Wednesday morning. He defended the decision as a cost-cutting measure that would save the Pentagon and services millions in heath care costs.

Mr. Trump acted after House Republicans were divided over an effort led by Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler to include a prohibition on any Pentagon funding for so-called gender reassignment surgery for transgendered servicemen, a move that stalled action on a major spending bill earlier this month.

“I think we raised the awareness for people all across this country of this failed Obama policy that had been inflicted on our military last year and the dangers to both our readiness as well as our ability to spend our precious defense dollars to meet the threat,” Ms. Hartzler told The Kansas City Star Wednesday, praising Mr. Trump’s decision.

Pentagon scrambles after Trump’s transgender shift

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