President Donald Trump may be on a 17- day vacation but his White House has been scrambling to hand him a “win” by the time he returns. Trump’s tweets last week announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the U.S. military was turned into a “guidance” policy for implementation that passed muster with the White House Counsel’s office Friday night.
Approved by Trump, the new policy is expected to be now delivered into the hands of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been quiet on the issue with approximately 15,000 trans service members under his command.
After his review, Mattis is expected to order a deliberate implementation by the Pentagon, which could take a period of time.
Though the policy—called “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out”—has not yet been made public, sources familiar with the planning said it would encourage early retirement, usher out any enlisted personnel after their contract is up, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. Basically, said a source, “the administration wants to get rid of transgender service members as fast as they can.”
No one yet knows what will happen to the service members currently fighting in combat. The new policy does allow trans service members to continue serving but apparently does not offer any protection from harassment or other efforts to get them to quit.
Trump said in his tweets that the decision to ban trans military service was made after consultation with his generals and to safeguard the readiness of the armed forces. That flies in the face of a Rand study commissioned in 2016 by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that said there were “few obstacles” to lifting the existing ban against trans service.
Trump focused his attention on the cost of medical care for trans service members who want to transition on the job. But, the New York Times reported: “Paying for the procedures would cost the Pentagon between $2.9 million to $4.2 million a year, the report said. By comparison, the Pentagon each year spends $6 billion of its $610 billion budget on medical costs for active-duty service members.”
Last Tuesday, 56 retired generals and admirals came out against Trump’s proposed ban. “This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy,” the retired officers said in a statement, The Hill reported.
The commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, also came out on Tuesday saying he would continue to support the 13 trans troops under his command, “despite Twitter posts by President Trump saying the government would not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military,” the New York Times reported.
“That is the commitment to our people right now,” Admiral Zukunft said. “Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today.”
Since Trump’s tweets were not technically policy, Zukunft did not openly defy the Commander-in-Chief. But now that the policy is moving forward, it is likely that he may be encouraged to resign.
Two sources says they have confirmation from their sources at the White House and Pentagon that the “phase out” policy is on its way to the Secretary of Defense.
Matthew F. Thorn, Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN, released the following statement:
“The President’s order to remove transgender service members from the United States armed forces is nothing less than a purge. He is implementing this purge based on bigotry, motivated by agents of an ideology that has no concern for the national defense, and in blatant disregard of the experience of career officers who spent more than a year developing and implementing the current policy.
It is inconceivable that a man with a demonstrated incompetence in managing the small staff of the White House should have any credibility when it comes to making sound personnel decisions that will effect a fighting force of more than 1.8 million men and women.
We recognize this purge for what it is – a discriminatory attack on the people who have volunteered their lives for the defense of the country. It is arbitrary and capricious, a callous and questionable exercise of constitutional authority which is beneath the dignity of a Commander-in-Chief.
We condemn the actions of the White House in initiating this purge. We condemn the disregard that the President has shown to transgender men and women who wear the uniform. We condemn the intent of any person who would make it the mission of United States military to discriminate against the very citizens they are charged to defend. And we condemn the indifference of any elected official who does not now stand up for both military personnel and the LGBT community by opposing this purge.
OutServe-SLDN with our partner Lambda Legal will be immediately filing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge this action.”