Mattis temporarily freezes implementation of Trump’s transgender military ban, pending study

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

USA Today and a number of outlets have reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will not implement Donald Trump’s order banning transgender service members pending a results of an expert study. This is being reported by a number of outlets as Mattis practically defying Trump, but not so much, it seems.

Mattis’ statement says that the military will implement the order exactly as directed.

“The department will carry out the president’s policy direction, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security,” the statement said bluntly. It goes on to explain that, “as directed,” the Department of Defense will develop “a study and implementation plan,” following which Mattis will advise Trump “concerning implementation of his policy direction.” All of that matches what was in Trump’s order.

What seems to have confused the outlets was Mattis’ claim that “[i]n the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.” But this is not a change; it is also consistent with Trump’s order. […]

So as Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) explained in response to stories suggesting a freeze, “The new ban does not go into effect until March 23, 2018 and expressly states that no one can be discharged for being transgender in the meantime. There is nothing new at all here, and suggesting otherwise is terribly misleading.”

The Pentagon is essentially following the order Trump made by tweet, blindsiding Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In fact, Mattis was on vacation when Trump tweeted out his order. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, responded to the tweets by saying the Pentagon would wait for a more official notice from the White House before changing its policy. Now it’s announcing that it is implementing the order, basically, but not kicking anyone out of the military right now.

The Pentagon already has one study in hand, one commissioned from the RAND Corp. last year that the several thousand transgender troops serving now have a negligible effect on the military’s readiness and that they would cost maybe $8 million annually in healthcare costs, hardly breaking the Pentagon’s budget.