Mattis to Allow Transgender Service Members Pending Study

James Mattis
James Mattis / AP
August 29, 2017

Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis announced Tuesday night that transgender troops will be allowed to serve in the military, pending a study of the issue.

The news, first reported by USA Today, follows President Donald Trump's granting Mattis wide discretion on how to implement a ban on transgender people in the military.

"Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction," Mattis said in the statement. "In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place."

The policy, which was only recently rescinded by the Obama administration, was reimplemented by Trump. The President first tweeted about the reimplemented ban, and then formally notified the Pentagon of the change Friday night.

There had been some caution on the part of the Pentagon in implementing Trump's order in tweet form, with Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that the policy would not be implemented until a formal notice was given by the White House.

Mattis's decision means that the Pentagon will have time to consider if transgender soldiers will continue to serve, if the military will subsidize gender reassignment surgery, and how any transgender soldiers might be discharged.

The Pentagon commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation last year to consider the impact of allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military. The study found that a few to several thousand transgender troops are on the active duty, as compared to an overall force of 1.3 million. It also said that health care costs would amount to about $8 million to year, and impact on readiness would be "negligible."

Data provided to the Washington Free Beacon suggests that the cost of gender confirmation surgery would be greater, about $1.3 billion over 10 years.