The Army and Marine Corps are requesting delays as long as two years in implementing a policy to accept transgender applicants into their ranks, according to government officials.
The requests for delays have been made to top Pentagon officials in advance of a July 1 deadline the services had been given to develop policies to recruit and commission transgender troops. Under a policy enacted last year during the Obama administration, the Pentagon has allowed transgender troops in the ranks to continue serving; they previously had been banned from the military based on health reasons.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not yet made a decision on accepting new transgender troops, according to the Pentagon.
“The Secretary of Defense directed the military departments to assess their readiness to access transgender applicants into the military," said Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman. "The assessment is narrowly focused on readiness to access transgender applicants, not on gender transition by currently serving Service members.”
The Army, in seeking its delay, has raised concerns about the ability of transgender troops to deploy to war zones while under treatment for gender transitions, according to three government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the policy because it is still under consideration. The Navy is ready to implement an acceptance policy, the sources said.
Last year's directive required the services to develop guidelines for accepting new transgender troops by July 1. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, in a memo, had directed the service chiefs to file their plans on May 31 to meet the deadline, advising top officials that he did not intend to revisit the issue unless it could “cause readiness problems that could lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield.”
An architect of the plan that repealed the transgender troop ban has said Work’s memo was an invitation to the services to seek a delay. Brad Carson, the former top Pentagon personnel official, said allowing the services to raise concerns about readiness would allow them to seek delays for a policy some viewed as controversial.
The estimated 6,000 transgender troops among the 1.3 million men and women on active duty would have a "minimal impact on readiness and health-care costs," according to a 2016 report commissioned by the Pentagon by the RAND Corp. About 130 transgender troops a year would have "reduced deployability" because of treatment for gender transition. That compared with 50,000 non-deployable soldiers in 2015.
The lack of a policy to accept transgender troops was highlighted this spring when the Army and Air Force could not commission transgender graduates of their prestigious academies because the Pentagon lacks a policy for accepting them.