- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Pentagon is poised to give President Trump its highly anticipated recommendations on reimposing the ban on transgender recruits serving openly in the armed forces by the end of this week, Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday.

Defense Secretary James Mattis missed his own Wednesday deadline for the revised transgender policy because he needed more time to work through the complexities of implementing Mr. Trump’s order, Ms. White said.

Mr. Trump in July tweeted that, after “consultation with my Generals and military advisers,” he was reinstating a ban lifted by President Obama on transgender individuals serving openly in the military. But military service leaders have moved cautiously since then, allowing transgender soldiers and sailors already in the ranks to continue serving as they worked out the implementation challenges of Mr. Trump’s about-face.

“This is a complex issue. And the secretary is taking his time to consider the information he’s been given,” Ms. White told reporters, noting the Feb. 21 due date for the policy was a “self-imposed deadline” by Mr. Mattis. She said the secretary, a former Marine combat general, was analyzing the policy shift “through the lens of lethality.”

How quickly and how hard to re-impose the ban has proven a difficult issue for the military commanders, with some commanders explicitly saying transgender troops would be allowed to continue serving without discrimination while the new policy was being worked out. There have been reports Mr. Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been exploring ways to allow at least some transgender troops already in the ranks to serve — a move that cuts across Mr. Trump’s surprise July tweet and an Aug. 25 executive order seeking to institute the shift.

Several courts have also ordered a freeze on the transgender ban while a string of legal challenges to Mr. Trump’s move are heard.

But recent changes to military personnel policy could offer Mr. Mattis a way to finesse the controversy without a sweeping and explicit order banning transgender from service. There were reports Thursday that the recommendation would block service only for those transgender troops whose condition prevented them from deploying on combat missions or overseas deployments.

The new “Deploy or Out” policy, which states all U.S. servicemembers must be physically and mentally able to deploy on combat operations or face military discharge, could produce the same end result of preventing openly transgender troops from service without singling them out for discriminatory treatment, one conservative defense analyst said.

The personnel policy “would apply to so-called ‘transgender’ individuals afflicted with the clinical condition known as ‘gender dysphoria’ who are routinely unable to work, let alone deploy, due to hormone treatments, surgeries [and] psychological care,” Frank Gaffney, president of the conservative Center for Security Policy, said in a statement Thursday.

Despite Mr. Trump’s order, the Defense Department gave the green light in December to allow transgender applicants to enlist into the armed forces — after undergoing a slew of physical, psychological and medical requirements before being considered for military service.

The new standards for transgender enlistment include certification that a recruit has been deemed “clinically stable” in their preferred sex for 18 months, and does not suffer from marked stress or impairment tied to their selected gender during certain scenarios tied to military service.

The White House has already received blowback from top military brass inside the Pentagon. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress in September that all citizens, including transgender individuals, should be allowed in uniform if they meet military standards.

“I would just probably say that I believe any individual who meets the physical and mental standards, and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve,” Gen. Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Mattis‘ report to the president are not expected to be made public and Mr. Trump is not obligated to accept the Pentagon chief’s recommendations. The Rand Corporation estimates there are between 1,300 and 6,600 transgender members in the military.

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