WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump is preparing to authorize the Defense Department to expel transgender people from the military and cut off payments for sexual reassignment surgery for those already serving, according to published reports.
Trump announced his intention to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military in a series of tweets last month. However, at the time, the Pentagon pushed back, informing the president that tweeting a policy change wouldn’t fly, and that he had to follow longstanding procedure to effect the change.
In response, the administration had drafted a memo formally directing Defense Secretary James Mattis to begin enforcing the transgender ban within six months.
The existence of the memo was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said the directive would be delivered to Mattis “in coming days.”
As described in the report, the president’s memo will direct Mattis to immediately stop admitting transgender people to the military, and will establish a legal framework for determining whether transgender individuals currently serving are capable of deploying in war zones, or should be kicked out of the military.
Trump’s unconventional July 26 fiat by Twitter caught military leaders off guard and drew widespread condemnation from both sides of the aisle.
It has also drawn criticism from transgender advocacy groups like the San Francisco-based Palm Center, which worked with the military to craft a policy allowing transgender service members to serve openly.
“It is unconscionable that the Commander-in-Chief would take aim at his own, loyally serving troops for political reasons at a time when the military needs to focus on real threats,” the center’s director Aaron Belkin said in a statement Thursday morning.
Belkin’s statement noted that 56 retired general and admirals, and former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsy and Adm. Mike Mullen had said banning transgender troops would degrade readiness and cause significant disruptions.
Transgender individuals serving openly in the military for the last year have drawn wide praise from commanders, Belkin said, adding that an inclusive policy for LGBT troops promotes readiness.
“Imposing one set of standards for transgender troops, and another set of standards for everyone else is a recipe for disruption, distraction and waste,” Belkin said.
Trump had said in his series of July tweets announcing the ban that he had consulted with generals and military experts before determining that transgender troops would not be allowed to serve in the military in any capacity.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” he tweeted.
He cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption” as reasons to implement the ban.”
The proposed directive would reverse a year-old Obama administration policy that allowed an estimated 2,000 – 11,000 transgender troops to openly serve in the military, according to the statistics compiled by the RAND Corporation.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon said via email that, “At this time, DoD has not received formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the Commander-in-Chief’s announcement on military service by transgender personnel.”
“DoD will provide an update upon receipt of formal guidance,” the spokesperson added.
The White House declined to comment, a spokesperson there saying, “when we have an announcement on this we will let you know.”