Decision on Transgender Recruits Could Be Delayed Again

Capt. Jeffrey Ward, commanding officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, facilitates transgender training with chiefs and officers in the ship's wardroom. (U.S. Navy Photo/ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)
Capt. Jeffrey Ward, commanding officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, facilitates transgender training with chiefs and officers in the ship's wardroom. (U.S. Navy Photo/ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)

The Defense Department could once again miss a deadline for deciding whether the military should take in transgender recruits, Pentagon officials said Friday.

Though a decision is due July 1, "We're still taking it under review" and there is no guarantee the deadline will be met, said Dana White, an assistant to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

White and other DoD officials said the services have submitted their recommendations but left open the possibility that the July 1 deadline could be extended for weeks or months.

The DoD has missed several previous deadlines on the transgender issue.

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The current policy allowing transgender personnel already in the military to continue to serve while barring new recruits left two transgender service academy graduates in limbo -- one from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and one from the Air Force Academy.

They graduated in May but have not been allowed to receive their commissions. White said the two would remain in that status until Mattis makes a decision. The status of the two service academy graduates was first reported by USA Today.

The current estimate is that between 6,000 and 14,000 transgender personnel are serving out of a total of about 1.3 million active-duty troops, but transgender recruits and new officers have been barred.

The policy to allow current transgender personnel to serve openly was announced in June 2016 by then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, but he kept the ban on transgender recruits.

Last week, the Pentagon put out a memorandum recognizing June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

"During this time, the department recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members and civilians for their dedicated service to the Department of Defense and the nation," the memo said.

"The struggles, sacrifices and successes of the LGBT community continue to shape our history and remind us to uphold tolerance and justice for all," the memo said.

Gay troops have been allowed to serve openly in the military since 2011. Before that, the DoD operated under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the Clinton administration.

That policy allowed no discrimination against gays in the military, but they could not serve openly.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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