The Pentagon announced late Friday that it will delay enlistment of transgender people into the armed services for another six months.
The move by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis comes just hours before a July 1 deadline, set by the Obama administration.
According to a memo Mattis wrote that was obtained by The Associated Press, the Defense Secretary is giving military leaders the additional time to insure the change won’t affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.
From Fox News:
Mattis’ decision endorses an agreement created last week by military service leaders. That new deal rejects Air Force and Army requests for a two-year wait and reflected the broader worry that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill.
Under former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the military branches had six months — with July 1 as the deadline — to come up with a new policy for new transgender recruits.
The new deadline is January 1, 2018.
While everyone who so desires should be able to serve in the military, safety of the individuals and of each armed service branch needs to be put first and not sacrificed in the name of “diversity.”
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter already ended the ban on transgender service members to be able to serve openly in the military, 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.
However, 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.
So, while transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since 2016, they have not been allowed to enlist as new recruits.
Officials said there was a broad recognition that allowing transgender individuals to enlist affects each service differently. They described the biggest challenge as the infantry.
AP News reports that Mattis’ decision was met with divided reaction:
Stephen Peters, Human Rights Campaign spokesman and a Marine veteran, said, “Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity.”
Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center, said the delay will only force applicants to lie in order to join the military. “That makes no sense because, as predicted by all of the research, transgender military service has been a success,” he said.
But Jerry Boykin, a retired Army lieutenant general and executive vice president of the Family Research Council, hailed Mattis’ decision.
“The Pentagon is right to hit the brakes on a policy that will fail to make our military more capable in performing its mission to fight and win wars,” Boykin said.
Officials have said discussions are aimed at a solution that would give recruits the best chance of succeeding, while ensuring the services maintain the highest standards for entry into the military.