The heads of the military are reportedly pushing for a delay on the implementation of a plan to allow transgender people to join the armed forces.
Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter initiated the proposal in 2016, giving the military until July 1 to come up with policies to facilitate the recruitment of transgender personnel, The Associated Press reports.
Officials familiar with the talks, but not authorized to speak publicly about them, told AP that a delay of six months in transgender enlistment appears likely. They noted that the Army and Air Force wanted a two year delay to study the issues involved, while the Marine Corps called for a one year hold.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White refused to confirm the report.
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"It's been a very deliberative process," she said. "The deputy secretary of defense has not submitted a recommendation to the secretary yet and so no decision has been made."
Defense Secretary James Mattis will be responsible for making the final decision when the military heads reach an agreement.
However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford suggested to the Senate that a delay was likely, pointing out that some issues with transgender recruitment had been identified, which "some of the service chiefs believe need to be resolved before we move forward."
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Carter initially stipulated that transgender people would need to have been stable in their gender for 18 months prior to joining the armed forces. This period could now be extended to two years, the sources indicated.
There are already some 250 military personnel who are at some stage of transition. Approximately 160 of those are in the Navy, and "a handful" in the Marines. Numbers for the Air Force were not available.
"Each day that passes without implementing the final piece of this important policy harms our military readiness and restricts the Armed Forces' ability to recruit the best and the brightest," said Stephen Peters, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign and Marine veteran. "There are thousands of transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today, and as they've proven time and time again, what matters is the ability to get the job done -- not their gender identity."
A study by RAND found there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender people serving in the active duty military and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
Dunford has made clear there is no intention of reversing the military's policy of allowing existing service personnel to serve openly as a transgender individual.
"Let's be clear," said Dunford, according to the Washington Examiner. "Transgender personnel are serving right now and there is no review ongoing that would affect the ability of those currently serving to continue serving providing they can meet the physical and mental qualifications of service."
Sources: AP, Washington Examiner / Photo credit: Dominique A. Pineiro via Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr, Brigitte N. Brantley/DOD via U.S. Air Force, Antonio Ramirez via Defense Video Imagery Distribution Service