WASHINGTON — Transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter.
The decision would reverse a policy announced under former President Barack Obama.
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. 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. Thank you
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
Obama in 2011 overturned the military’s two-decade-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which had kept people who were openly homosexual from serving in the military.
In July 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the Pentagon planned to allow transgender people to openly serve, and in June 2016 declared, effective immediately, that transgender individuals would no longer be discharged or separated from the military solely for that reason.
The all-volunteer U.S. military needed to be able to recruit the best people available without “barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification,” Carter said at the time.
Current Defence Secretary James Mattis last month had announced a six-month delay by the Trump administration in implementing the Obama-era plans to accept openly transgender recruits in order to “evaluate more carefully the impact … on readiness and lethality.”
In a memo, he emphasized that the delay “in no way presupposes the outcome of the review.”
Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that the Defence Department “will continue to work closely with the White House on the new guidance provided by the commander in chief.”
He said the decision was “the product of consultation” but did not say who was involved in any review of the issue.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House would work with the Pentagon to develop a plan to implement the policy and determine the impact on those already serving.
“The president has a lot of support for all Americans and certainly wants to protect all Americans at all times,” Sanders said, but added the decision was based on a “conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”
The decision drew immediate criticism from Congress.
Arizona Senator John McCain, a member of Trump’s conservative Republican Party and Armed Services Committee chairman, called the president’s tweet “unclear” and said that such “major policy announcements” should not be made through Twitter.
“There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military – regardless of their gender identity,” McCain said.