Mattis Completes Review on Whether to Allow Transgender Troops

In this July 29, 2017, photo transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims is silhouetted on a balcony after an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen near Regensburg, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
In this July 29, 2017, photo transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims is silhouetted on a balcony after an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen near Regensburg, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has completed his policy review on transgender individuals serving in the military and his recommendations were likely to be forwarded to the White House later this week, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesmen said the review and recommendations would be conveyed privately and disclosure would be up to the White House.

Mattis was under a Feb. 21 deadline to complete the report that came about after President Trump caught the military by surprise last July in sending out Tweets calling for a ban on transgender individuals in the ranks.

Trump said he wanted the future policy to be that the U.S. "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."

In August, Trump issued a memo directing Mattis to conduct a review led by a panel of experts and make recommendations by Feb. 21.

Trump's ban would reverse the directive issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time.

Trump's proposals triggered a series of lawsuits by advocacy groups and four federal district courts have now ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional. The courts also ordered that the recruitment of transgender individuals should resume on Jan. 1 and the military has complied.

Mattis last week strongly endorsed the new rules for the military setting out that those who cannot deploy for 12 consecutive months should be discharged. Exceptions would be made for pregnancies and troops wounded or injured in combat.

There has been speculation that the "deployability" rules could be used against transgender individuals, but Matt Thorn, president of the OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) advocacy group said that deployments were not generally a problem for transgender individuals currently serving.

"We don't expect that policy to have much impact," Thorn said of the new rules on deployments. "Most transgender individuals are deployable by the 12-month marker."

The Defense Department has repeatedly declined to give an estimate on how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.

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

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