Trump insisted his new ban on transgender service members was based on recommendations from the military, but the Pentagon still has no idea what the ban means or how it would be implemented.
Undercutting the White House’s assertion that Donald Trump announced his sweeping new directive to remove all transgender people from the U.S. military after consulting with top Pentagon officials, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced there would be no action on the ban because the armed services don’t yet know what the ban means.
“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, wrote to top military officers on Thursday. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”
Trump’s announcement completely blindsided not only the Pentagon but members of Congress. “This is major policy by tweet,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) complained to CNN Thursday. Coffman sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
Trump stressed in his tweets announcing the ban that it was made “after consultation with my Generals and military experts.” And at Wednesday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted the move was based on a “military decision.”
Yet to date, the White House has provided absolutely no details on how such a wide-ranging new policy initiative would be carried out. It has also failed to present any senior members of the military leadership to discuss the plan, or explain why it is needed.
The White House’s entire rationale seemed to revolve around, ‘The military told us to do it,” even though there was no proof that that was the case. Thursday’s announcement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirming it was blindsided by the news, essentially obliterates the White House spin.
The announced transgender ban has been met with bipartisan criticism.
The new initiative would overturn a policy President Barack Obama instituted last year allowing transgender military personnel to serve openly and seek related medical care. Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis had previously announced he was delaying enactment of that plan and wanted six more months to study the issue. Trump’s tweets short-circuited all that.
A 2016 Rand Corp. study commission by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs.