Military Leaders Seek Delay to Transgender Enlistment Policy

U.S. troops pray during a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, in Kabul September 11, 2012.
U.S. troops pray during a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, in Kabul September 11, 2012. | (Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)

Military chiefs have reportedly requested a six-month delay for implementing an Obama-era policy that would allow openly transgender Americans to enlist in the armed services.

The Associated Press has reported that leaders from branches of the armed services have worked out an agreement to request that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a six-month delay to a July 1 deadline for the armed services to begin accepting transgender applicants who have been steady in the gender for at least 18 months. That deadline was set by President Barack Obama's Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The AP report, which cites military officials not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations, explains that leaders from the Air Force and Army had requested a two-year delay. However, the leaders involved in the agreement shot down that idea because of the criticism that could come from Capitol Hill.

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Pentagon began allowing transgender service members who are already serving in the military to openly identify as transgender, begin changing their military identifications, and receive medical care last October. According to AP, there are over 250 service members that are currently in the process of transitioning to their preferred gender or have gotten permission to change their gender in the Pentagon system.

According to the unnamed officials, the extra six months would allow the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy to examine what problems and challenges transgender service members who are already serving are facing and what changes can be made to solve those issues.

In addition to the request for delay, AP's sources said that military leaders met with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to discuss the matter last Thursday.

As Mattis is ultimately the one who will make a final decision when it comes any delay to the July 1 deadline, CNN reports Work will need to make a recommendation to Mattis with the input of the military leaders.

"The deputy secretary has not submitted a recommendation to the secretary yet, so no decision has been made," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said, according to CNN.

White did not offer any additional details as to when Work would submit a recommendation to Mattis.

"Different services had different takes," White was quoted as saying. "[T]here were all kinds of different recommendations."

AP reports that while the Army and Air Force sought a two-year delay to the deadline, Navy and Marine Corps officials asked for a one-year delay.

In addition to asking for the delay, the military leaders also asked that transgender Americans who enlist in the armed services be "steady" in their gender for at least two years as opposed to the 18-month standard set by Carter.

The AP report comes after USA Today reported in May that Work sent a memo to military leaders asking them to asses their branches "readiness to begin accepting transgender applicants on July 1, 2017."

One former Obama administration official who worked under Carter and called for an end to the military's ban on transgender service members, Brad Carson, expressed concern with the language in Work's memo.

"We do not intend to reconsider prior decisions unless they cause readiness problems that could lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield," the memo stated.

Carson stated that "This could be seen as an opportunity to reconsider the policy."

"It is certainly possible, and it would invite litigation," Carson told USA Today. "I do have full confidence in [Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis to do the right thing here."

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