Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the current policy governing transgender soldiers will remain until the military is notified by the secretary of defense.
“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President,” 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,” Dunford said in the message, first reported by Reuters.
Dunford then made the assurance that the U.S. military would “treat all of our personnel with respect.” The message neither voiced support nor opposition to Trump’s decision.
Trump made his announcement on Wednesday morning in a series of Twitter postings, saying he would ban transgender people from the U.S. military. The move appealed to some in his conservative political base but created vast uncertainty for active-duty and reserve transgender service members, who say they number in the thousands.
Separately, the Trump administration on Thursday told a U.S. appeals court in New York that federal law does not ban discrimination against gay employees, a sharp reversal of the position Democratic former President Barack Obama took.
As a presidential candidate, Trump last year vowed to fight for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. His decision drew condemnation from rights groups and some lawmakers in both parties as politically motivated discrimination. But it was also praised by conservative activists and some of his fellow Republicans.
The White House said Trump had “extensive discussions with his national security team,” and that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was informed after the president decided on Tuesday to go ahead.
But the Army’s chief of staff, General Mark Milley, said on Thursday he had no advance knowledge of Trump’s decision before Wednesday’s announcement. He added that was not unusual.
It should be pointed out that the president does not communicate directly with the brass. That’s the job of the secretary of defense. So the hysteria in the media today about Trump leaving his generals in the dark about his transgender policy is, as usual, misplaced.
But should Trump have held discussions about the issue with his top generals? You would think that the generals would be in the best position to give the president advice on any change in policy. Then again, the transgender ban is not about the military, it’s about politics.
All of this sturm und drang by transgender supporters — Trump’s policy will make us “weaker” is one criticism — is nonsense. In a military of 1.2 million active duty personnel, there might be 8,000 transgender soldiers. What happens to those 8,000 soldiers will not affect our readiness one iota nor weaken our fighting forces in any way. It’s a ridiculous argument on its face.
The noise made in opposition to this policy is misleading. As has been pointed out, only 12 percent of active duty personnel support allowing transgender troops to serve. And just 23 percent of Americans as a whole think it’s a good idea to have transgenders serving in the military.
Trump’s policy may be unpopular with the coastal elites but it no doubt enjoys broad and deep support every where else.