Gen. James Mattis – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.
Three retired Army generals and a group that advocates for allowing LGBTQ individuals to serve openly in the military service are calling on U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to allow the military to begin accepting new transgender recruits.
In an open letter released by the Palm Center, Lieutenant Gen. Claudia Kennedy, Major General Gale Pollock, and Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender urged Mattis to resist calls from some military leaders and social conservatives who have long opposed open service, particularly by transgender individuals.
“Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has stated that he will make personnel decisions based on evidence about what best promotes force readiness,” the generals wrote. “If he is serious about that commitment, he will maintain existing policy and make clear that there will be no return to the days of forcing capable applicants to lie in order to serve their country.”
Last year, under President Obama’s Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, the Pentagon lifted a ban on transgender troops who were already serving, and put in place a timeline by which the military would develop guidance and training materials relating to the new policy. The Pentagon would then be expected to start accepting new transgender recruits, starting on July 1, 2017.
But Mattis has gotten pushback over the policy, with dozens of retired military generals and admirals — as well as heads of socially conservatives organizations and former Republican congressmen, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — signing their names to a public memo circulated by the Conservative Action Project.
In the memo, the signatories call on Mattis to end transgender military service altogether, writing: “Conservative leaders strongly support the principle of peace through strength and therefore the need for immediate action to return the priority of the Department of Defense to restoring America’s military readiness and ending costly and distracting social engineering.”
Military experts estimate that between 6,000 and 14,000 transgender people are currently serving in uniform, out of a total of 1.3 million active-duty troops.
On Tuesday, the Center for Military Readiness sent out an email asking if it was a “firing offense” for a Pentagon undersecretary who issued a memo last Friday announcing and endorsing Pride month activities, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“Do holdover officials in positions such as this have authority to implement or celebrate the previous administration’s policies, even if President Trump has not authorized them?” Elaine Donnelly, the center’s president, asked in an email, noting that Trump has not issued a proclamation recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month.
“If this is not a firing offense, are President Obama and Ashton Carter still making policy at the Pentagon?” asked Donnelly, who was one of the more prominent figures opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as it pertained to gay and lesbian troops.
A spokesman for the Pentagon told the Union-Tribune that Mattis has directed the various services to “assess their readiness to access transgender applicants” into the military, but did not issue a timeline for when a final decision would be made.