Faced with President Trump’s task of implementing a ban on their service, Defense Secretary James Mattis has issued a memo allowing transgender troops currently in the military to re-enlist — at least during the six-month period when Pentagon studies the issue.
The interim guidance, obtained Friday by the Washington Blade and other media outlets, lays out the implementation plan for Trump’s directive last month to ban transgender military service.
Mattis says in the memo he “want[s] to emphasize that the current policy and procedures remain in place,” which means the transgender service members currently in service will be able to re-enlist as the study moves forward.
“Transgender service members whose term of service expires while the interim guidance is in effect, may, at the service member’s request, re-enlist under existing procedures,” Mattis writes.
But that could change. Mattis writes his memo takes effect immediately, but only remains in effect until the Pentagon’s “final policy concerning the military service by transgender individuals.”
As Mattis said before, the Defense Department, the memo notes, will convene a panel of experts to examine transgender service submit an implementation plan to Trump no later than Feb. 21.
But the new memo also lays out additional details about the membership of the panel, which will consist of military department under secretaries, service vice chiefs and service senior enlisted advisers.
The deputy secretary of defense and the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will also “designate personnel to support the panel’s work to ensure their recommendations reflect civilian experience, as well as combat experience and expertise in military operational effectiveness.” The panel may seek advice from outside experts on an individual basis, the memo says.
The memo becomes public on the same day Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced bipartisan legislation in the Senate seeking to undermine Trump’s transgender military ban. Among the co-sponsors are Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Sarah McBride, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the memo and new legislation demonstrate the Pentagon and lawmakers, unlike Trump, are willing to support transgender troops.
“It is clear that there is broad opposition within Congress and military leadership to Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s discriminatory attacks on transgender troops,” McBride said. “Donald Trump’s erratic July tweets — and the subsequent half-baked orders — have left the lives and careers of thousands of transgender service members in question. There is only one right answer here, and that is allowing any person willing and able to serve to do so. And we will not relent in our efforts to make that a reality.”