Secretary of Defense James Mattis was reportedly outraged that President Donald Trump chose to announce his ban on transgender troops serving in the military on social media. The majority of the Pentagon was not aware of the new policy when Trump disclosed it on Twitter.
On July 26, Trump took to social media to announce that transgender Americans would no longer be welcome to serve 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 Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump wrote in a series of tweets.
"Our military 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," the president added.
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Mattis was on vacation when Trump made the announcement and made no comment. The Secretary of Defense was given notice of the new policy only one day before and was reportedly appalled that the president would unveil the ban through tweets, according to The New York Times.
A 2016 study conducted by the RAND Corporation estimated between 2,000 to 11,000 of the military's overall 1.3 million active-duty service members were transgender. LGBTQ activists have asserted that the figure could be as high as 15,000. The RAND study concluded that transgender participation in the military would have a negligible impact on group cohesion and would pose a microscopic cost to the Pentagon's budget.
In June 2016, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the Pentagon's longstanding ban on transgender Americans openly serving in the military. The policy shift also compelled the U.S. Department of Defense to pay for transgender troop's medical needs, such as hormonal therapy and gender reassignment surgery.
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Carter blasted Trump for reinstating the ban in a statement.
"To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military," Carter said. "There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service."
Trump made the abrupt decision when GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and several of her conservative colleagues told him they would not support a defense spending bill if it included funding for transgender medical services.
Hartzler brought her case directly to the White House after Mattis declined to respond to her concerns. The Defense Secretary, who had originally opposed allowing transgender troops to openly serve, was reportedly lobbying against denying their medical expenses because he considered their military participation a settled policy.
Trump wanted House Republican opposition to the spending bill, which included a $1.6 billion down payment for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. To settle the dispute, Trump chose to ban transgender troops from serving altogether, a measure that Hartzler and her colleagues had not even requested.
"This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire," an anonymous GOP congressional aide told Politico.
On July 27, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, stated in a letter that transgender service members would remain in the military until the Trump administration offered clear guidance on how to implement a ban, The Hill reports.
"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance," Dunford wrote in a letter. "In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."