A Pentagon directive that would have allowed transgender applicants to join the military is now facing indefinite delays.
According to a report by the Military Times, the Defense Department is facing a July 1st deadline to fully implement the Obama era policy that lifted the ban on allowing transgender people who were already in uniform to serve openly. As of the July deadline, the Defense Department was required to establish conditions under which new applicants could join through enlistment or as officer candidates. Senior officials are voicing concerns about the new policy, dismissing it as “social experimentation.”
The decision regarding the future of the policy rests with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, though he has previously expressed doubts whether it would advance the military’s national security objectives. Just this May, his deputy released a memo that was obtained by USA Today, which instructed the service secretaries and chiefs of the armed services to assess their “readiness to begin accepting transgender applicants.” The memo also contained language that implied they could back out of the policy if it were determined the policy would affect readiness for combat.
A spokesman for the Pentagon, Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, declined to address whether there would be a delay in allowing transgender people to join the armed services, only saying there are no changes that would affect transgender service members who are already in uniform. According to the report, the Army and the Marine Corps have been the most vocal in advocating for a delay, however they are saying the problem is administrative issues and not an unwillingness to implement the policy.
Most recently, two transgender cadets, one each at the Air Force and Army academies, were allowed to graduate but are not being permitted to serve because the new policy has not been put in place. Earlier this year, the Pentagon quietly rolled back protections for transgender students who were attending Defense Department schools, indication that transgender issues may not be a priority for Defense Secretary Maddis.
The Defense Department currently estimates there are as many as 7,000 transgender troops serving in the active-duty force out of 1.3 million.