Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly caught off-guard and “appalled” by President Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he was banning transgender individuals from serving in the military, according to a New York Times report.
On vacation when he learned that Trump was initiating the new policy, Mattis only had one day’s advance notice before Trump tweeted his announcement to the public.
According to The New York Times, which uses anonymous sources so the story could be based on rumor, a “source close to the defense secretary told the Times that Mattis was infuriated by the tweets, and saw them as an insult to transgender Americans currently serving in the military.”
In a three-part tweet issued on Wednesday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter:
“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. 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. Thank you.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford penned a letter on Thursday stating that the policy would not be changed until “the White House issued further ‘guidance.'”
Dunford wrote, “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.”
The Times claims that Mattis had been “quietly lobbying Republicans for months to defeat a GOP-led amendment to the 2017 spending bill that would prevent the military from spending money on transition surgery or hormone therapy for transgender service members,” noting that Mattis resisted the initial policy allowing transgender Americans to serve in the armed forces at first, but he eventually accepted it.
Former Obama-administration defense secretary Ash Carter was outraged at Trump’s decision.
“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military,” Carter said in a statement. “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.”
Of course, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined the chorus of Trump critics on Wednesday, saying after the tweets went out, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military – regardless of their gender identity.”
Trump’s announcement, he noted, serves as “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”
Thousands of service members could be affected by Trump’s new policy, but no one knows exactly how many transgendered individuals currently serve in the U.S. military. A 2016 study failed miserably in trying to pin that number down, finding that there were 1,320 to 6,630 active duty service members who identify as transgender.
The study noted that not all of these service members will seek transition surgery or hormone therapy while part of the military.
Mattis has not denied claims made by The New York Times, and neither has his office.
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