Defense Secretary James Mattis has apparently put his foot down on Trump's transgender troop policy and is holding off on taking any action to expel the country's estimated 11,000 currently-serving transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines pending further study.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis late Tuesday announced that transgender troops will be allowed to continue serving in the military pending the results of a study by experts.
The announcement follows an order from President Trump — first announced in a tweet — declaring that transgender service members can no longer serve in the military, effectively reversing an Obama administration policy. The order also affects the Department of Homeland Security, which houses the Coast Guard.
"Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction," Mattis said in the statement. "In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place."
Mattis' move buys time for the Pentagon to determine how and if it will allow thousands of transgender troops to continue to serve, whether they will receive medical treatment, or how they will be discharged.
As Defense Secretary, Mattis has emphasized that he has little tolerance for policies that detract from military readiness or the Pentagon's effectiveness on the battlefield. At the last moment in June, he delayed the Pentagon's plan to accept new transgender troops. His reasoning: He demanded more study to determine the effect of recruiting them on the Pentagon's ability to fight and win wars.
The thing is that the Pentagon studies are already available from 2016.
Last year, the Pentagon commissioned a study by the non-partisan RAND Corp. to examine the effects on military readiness of allowing transgender troops to serve openly and the cost of providing them medical treatment. The study estimated that a few to several thousand transgender troops are on the active duty force of 1.3 million. Researchers found that paying for their health care needs would amount to about $8 million per year and their effect on readiness would be negligible.
I'm of course very glad that Mattis is slowing this train down, but the reality is eventually he's going to have to either say "yes sir" and follow through on Trump's orders or resign his cabinet position. I'm going to have to say given the past several months it's going to be option one. The study isn't a freeze, Trump's order was always that Mattis was going to make the decision as to how to implement the plan, but the study does give both Mattis and Trump political cover.
So sometime next spring, the ban will go back into place. What will happen as far as legal challenges to the ban from the ACLU and other rights groups, I couldn't tell you with this Supreme Court, but it's very possible that they won't even take the case.
We'll see, but I don't have very high hopes for this at all.