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House Chairman: DoD Putting Political Agenda First by Lifting Transgender Ban

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee accused Defense Secretary Ashton Carter of putting “the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis” with an impending lift of the transgender ban in the military.

The Pentagon has officially said that the decision on whether to allow transgender service members would come soon. The Washington Post cited anonymous Pentagon officials as saying the ban would be repealed in the coming weeks; USA Today said the announcement would be as soon as July 1.

Defense officials are reportedly working out the details of the plan, which has been met by some resistance within the department.

“The force is exhausted from back to back deployments and spending their home-station time scrambling to get enough equipment and training before they deploy again. My focus is on helping the troops now – to be the most effective, deployable force possible,” HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement today.

“Consistent with that philosophy, when we learned DOD was looking at new policies on the service of transgender individuals, the committee posed a number of questions to DOD,” he said. “In particular, there are readiness challenges that first must be addressed, such as the extent to which such individuals would be medically non-deployable.”

“Almost a year has passed with no answer to our questions from Secretary Carter. Our top priority must be warfighting effectiveness and individual readiness is an essential part of that.”

Carter said last month that the DoD was trying to work through “practical details” before issuing a decision.

“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.”

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, hailed today’s report as a “historic announcement” that “will not only extend long-overdue recognition to thousands of transgender service members, it will strengthen our military and our nation.”

“At long last, thousands of brave transgender patriots will be able to serve our nation openly with the respect they deserve,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “…By turning the page on this disgraceful policy, we will now be able to recruit and retain the very best candidates, rather than discharging highly-trained, talented transgender service members for no other reason than who they are.”

Other nations that allow open transgender military service, the HRC noted, include the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Israel.