Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that transgender troops would continue serving in the military while the Pentagon studied the issue, a decision that delays the implementation of President Donald Trump’s recently signed directive.
Mattis said he would establish a “panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security” to provide advice and recommendations on putting into effect the president’s order to bar transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces. The presidential guidance, which Trump signed on Friday, gave the defense secretary until Feb. 21 to submit a plan for implementing the new policy.
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In the interim, Mattis said, “current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place” with interim guidance from him, including “any necessary interim adjustments to procedures to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued.”
Members of the panel he intends to appoint will bring “mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task,” he said in a statement, adding they will “assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable.”
As directed by the president, Mattis said he would “develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law.”
“The implementation plan will address accessions of transgender individuals and transgender individuals currently serving in the United States…