WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. military will not accept transgender troops into its ranks or allow them to serve in any capacity, reversing a policy begun under the Obama administration.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump said that, after consulting "with my generals and military experts," the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
The U.S. military, he said, "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
It’s unclear how the announcement will affect the estimated 6,000 transgender troops now serving. Under the policy announced in July 2016, those troops were allowed to serve openly. Prior to that the military discharged them for medical reasons.
It's also unclear whether a series of tweets constitute a presidential directive, and whether Trump must sign documents to make the new policy effective.
The decision immediately drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights advocates.
"The president is sanctioning discrimination," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., speaking on MSNBC.
On Twitter, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe said, "this Trump anti-LGBT move is an affront to human dignity and military success. A real twofer."
Under Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Pentagon delayed implementation of a key portion of the Obama administration's plan: requiring the services to being accepting and recruiting new officers and enlisted troops. The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps requested more time to implement the policy, saying they needed time to study the effects of accepting transgender troops.
However, the Pentagon commissioned a report last year by the non-partisan RAND Corp. on transgender troops. Their research found that treating transgender troops would cost as much as $8 million per year and have a negligible effect on the military’s readiness to fight.
Last month, the Army had begun compulsory transgender sensitivity training for soldiers and civilian employees.
Some members of Congress have also tried to limit spending on transgender troops in this year’s legislation authorizing military spending.
On Tuesday, in a statement to USA TODAY, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen urged the acceptance of transgender troops by the military, saying that previous policies that prevented gay and lesbian troops from serving damaged the military.