The military is building a case to block transgender applicants — at least for now

Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/Air Force

WASHINGTON — A controversial Pentagon directive that would allow transgender men and women to join the military beginning this summer now faces indefinite delay as senior leaders within each of the services voice lingering concerns about the Obama-era policy intended to end discrimination but dismissed as social experimentation by many in the ranks.


This development, confirmed to Military Times by multiple sources with knowledge of these internal discussions, comes as the Defense Department faces a July 1 deadline to fully implement a policy that one year ago lifted the ban on transgender personnel already in uniform, and established the conditions and timeline by which new applicants could join either through enlistment or as officer candidates.

President Donald Trump does not share his predecessor's view on transgender rights, while plenty in the ranks and inside the Pentagon have questioned the practicality of expending such effort to accommodate a comparatively small demographic. Those advocating for inclusiveness have suspected for many months that the administration could bring about the initiative's demise simply by declining to act upon it.

It's unclear how Defense Secretary Jim Mattis eventually will rule on the matter, though in the past he has cast doubt on whether such moves ultimately advance the military's principal national security objectives. In early May, his deputy distributed a memo to the services' top leaders affording them an opportunity to raise concerns about the policy's implementation. As first reported by USA Today, the memo was carefully crafted to explain that plans would proceed "unless they cause readiness problems that could lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield."

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, would not address the prospect for delaying transgender accessions, saying only that there's been no change to existing military policy allowing transgender troops already serving to do so openly. "And," he added, "just like their fellow service members, [they may] receive all medically necessary care."

Spokespersons for each of the services referred questions to Caggins.

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