Donald Trump and James Mattis

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Pentagon refuses to change transgender policy until Trump clarifies tweets

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have vowed 'no modifications'—for now.


Andrew Couts


Published Jul 27, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 10:33 pm CDT

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has refused to institute President Donald Trump‘s ban on transgender military service members until the president gives direct orders to the secretary of defense.

In a memo to obtained by Politico, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told United States military leadership that there would be “no modifications” to current Department of Defense policy on transgender service members without Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis ordering changes based on Trump’s direction.

“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President,” Dunford wrote. “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.”

“In the meantime,” Dunford added, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

Mattis is currently on vacation.

Trump on Wednesday announced on Twitter that the military would no longer allow transgender service members because, the president said, they impose burden and disruption on America’s armed forces.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Trump’s assertion that transgender service members required the military to foot the bill for “tremendous medical costs” was quickly debunked and widely condemned. Reports soon exposed that Trump’s move was meant to clear the issue from blocking passage of legislation in the House of Representatives that would, in part, fund Trump’s U.S.–Mexico border wall.

The U.S. military is the largest employer of transgender Americans in the country, with an estimated 15,000 active-duty service members, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Last month, the Pentagon delayed its plan to accept new transgender recruits, originally planned to go into effect July 1. Barring changes to its policy, the plan will now take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

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*First Published: Jul 27, 2017, 12:39 pm CDT