Pentagon Preparing for Transgender Recruiting Starting Early Next Year

| DEC 7, 2017 | 11:13 PM

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The Pentagon is gearing up to accept transgender members of the military starting January 1, the agency said Wednesday. The move is a sign that President Donald Trump's military ban may be facing major roadblocks.

Officials are in talks to “prepare for the possibility of assessing transgender persons as of January 1, 2018, in accordance with the federal court ruling,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. David Eastburn told IJR. Citing ongoing legal proceedings, Eastburn declined to elaborate on the specifics of the preparations from the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.

The request plays into a continuing battle between the courts and the Trump administration to bar transgender people from the armed services. Late Wednesday, the administration requested a federal judge delay the January 1 requirement, claiming the military would be “seriously and irreparably harmed” if forced to comply with the deadline.

“Given the complex and multidisciplinary nature of the medical standards that need to be issued and the tens of thousands of geographically dispersed individuals that need to be trained, the military will not be adequately prepared to begin processing transgender applicants for military service by January 1, 2018, and requiring the military to do so may negatively impact military readiness,” the motion from the administration said.

However, recent research from the Rand Corp. indicates that costs associated with transgender servicepeople, including health care, are negligible at best.

Brad Carson, who served as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness in the Obama administration, refuted the government's claims Thursday, telling the Palm Center that the “military was ready to lift the enlistment ban one year ago and it is ready to do so today.”

Carson stressed that the Pentagon has been ready to accept transgender persons within the past year, barring admissions roadblocks from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the president himself.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, believes any further motions by the administration throw a wrench in potential legislative wins and is a clear indicator of prejudice at the highest level.

“The government's dogged pursuit of discrimination underscores the urgency for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation, backed by the Senate Armed Services chairman, that would stop the ban once and for all,” Tobin remarked to IJR.

National advocacy groups agree and argue that any further delay would be a legislative spinning of the wheels — a detrimental move that would only do a disservice by denying capable individuals the right to defend and serve.

“The Pentagon has thoroughly studied this issue, preparing for well over a year to finally begin accepting qualified transgender applicants who will join the thousands of highly trained transgender service members proudly serving today,” Stephen Peters, national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, told IJR. “It's time to move forward so that the military can recruit and retain the best and the brightest our nation has to offer, regardless of their gender identity.”

The president first remarked on transgender service members back in August with a series of tweets:

A “transgender military ban,” which rolls back policy put into place by the Obama administration, sparked outrage through much of the progressive community. Some advocates, though, have seen forward momentum for their cause with the Pentagon funding its first sex reassignment surgery in November.

Federal district court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly clarified an October injunction in which she blocked Trump's proposed military ban. The administration quickly attempted to delay the January 1 deadline, but Kollar-Kotelly struck down that motion on Nov. 28.

Further action from the Department of Justice and Department of Defense hinges on anticipated court rulings. And while merely procedural from a governmental standpoint, Evan Young, retired Army officer and president of the Transgender American Veterans Association, sees a return to open enlistment as a “huge” indicator of progress.

“We are excited to see that the courts have ruled in our favor so far,” Young said. “This is a positive thing.”