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Top US General: No Changes Yet on Transgender Policy


FILE - Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford listens on Capitol Hill in Washington while testifying.

The U.S. military's top general says there has been no change yet to the military's policy on transgender personnel, despite President Donald Trump's announcement on Twitter that they will be banned from serving "in any capacity."

"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense [Jim Mattis] and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, wrote in a memo obtained by VOA.

The chairman’s spokesman, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, told VOA that Dunford had sent out the note Thursday morning. The note was addressed to the military’s service chiefs, commanders and enlisted military leaders.

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

Meanwhile, a statement by Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White on transgender policy was issued. "The Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the commander-in-chief's announcement on military service by transgender personnel. We will provide detailed guidance to the department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented. The department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect."

Trump made his transgender policy announcement Wednesday in a string of Twitter comments. Trump said he was ordering the armed forces to stop allowing transgender individuals to serve after consulting generals and military experts.

"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 tweeted.


White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump will "have to work together" with the Defense Department to "lawfully determine" the fate of transgender service personnel who are already in the military. According to research by the RAND Corporation, the U.S. military has about 4,000 transgender people currently serving.

Sanders rebuffed reporters' inquiries suggesting that Trump had broken an election campaign vow to support the transgender community. The president felt his decision was "the best one for the military," she said.

FILE - Former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
FILE - Former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Previous policy

In June 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon was ending what he said were policies that discriminated against transgender people, and would start by revoking a rule that transgender people could be involuntarily discharged from military service.

Under Carter's order, the military had planned to start allowing transgender people to enlist this year, provided they had been "stable" in their preferred gender for 18 months.

Ahead of Trump's announcement, Mattis said recently the Pentagon would delay Carter's order through the remainder of 2017 in order to review the impact of the shift.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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