Columns

Carter Asked at Air Force Academy If Defense Dept. Will Offer Transgender Education

(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/Released)

Asked about whether the Defense Department would offer education to service members about transgender service members, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Air Force Academy cadets today that “we’re working through it.”

Carter said last year that “current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions” and the department would study “the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.”

During the Q&A today in Colorado Springs, one cadet noted to the Defense chief that “there are a lot of members of the military and even the general public who don’t encounter transgender people on a normal basis, and maybe don’t fully understand it.”

“Are there any plans for the Department of Defense to educate about it?”

Carter called it “a complicated issue.”

“And I think it has a lot of ramifications that are very practical ones. The question of principle we’ve sort of settled, which is that — the one I said earlier, which is what matters is people’s ability to contribute to our military. That’s what matters,” he said.

“And then the — so — the only barriers we should ever erect to that principle are ones in which there are practical issues that we can’t work through. We usually, I’m confident, we’re very good at working through those kinds of things. So that’s what we’re working on right now.”

But, Carter added, “our principle is quite clear.”

“And it’s like everything else we do, we try to — we do things in a careful, thoughtful manner,” he said. “And I’m confident we’re going to get to the right place in this, as in so many other things we have to work through. And it — and what you have to keep in mind is it’s the — it’s the quality and readiness of the force that matters. That’s the goal, so keep that in front of us.”

In his remarks, the Defense secretary told the cadets “we’re always focused on America’s interests because that’s what matters most.”

“Some regions of the world are exceedingly messy, but we’re not daunted or confused because we have our North Star,” Carter said. “And we also recognize that protecting American interests often means leading other nations and other peoples, and leading by example… The positive and enduring partnerships the United States has cultivated with other nations around the world are built on our interests. They understand that. But they can also see that it’s built on our values, which most find decent, honorable and attractive. One thing I hear consistently from foreign leaders is how much they like working with you; how much they like working with the men and women of the United States military.”

“They want to work with you not just because you’re capable and competent, and have an awesome force, but also because of the way you conduct yourselves. They can trust you.”