House Armed Services Chairman: Repealing Military Transgender Ban Is Politics Over Policy

By Jonah Bennett

House Committee on Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry called the Pentagon’s decision to repeal the ban on transgenders serving openly in the military an example of “prioritizing politics over policy.”

Thornberry emphasized in a statement that military readiness depends on troops being fully medically ready, adding the Obama administration has done nothing to assure either Congress or the American people that transgenders are capable of meeting these serious national security requirements.

“This is the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.  Our military readiness—and hence, our national security—is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The Administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our Armed Forces are deployed around the world.”

Thornberry added he’ll keep putting pressure on the Pentagon to answer basic questions on readiness that the Department of Defense has so far refused to answer.

“Over the next few weeks, we are going to continue to push for actual answers to the readiness questions we’ve been asking for nearly a year to which we have still not received a response,” he said. “We will also be looking at legislative options to address the readiness issues associated with this new policy.”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Thursday afternoon the repeal of the ban on transgenders serving openly in the military. During the press conference, Carter responded to Thornberry’s remarks, saying, “The chairman is right to emphasize readiness. That’s a key part of our study and will be a key part of implementation. And the chairman and other members of the committees—and I’ve actually heard a variety of opinions on this, some urging us to move even faster than we have moved and some wanting—and this is very legitimate—to understand what the effects on readiness and so forth are.”

“But we have some principles here, we have a necessity here,” Carter added. “And we’re going to act upon that. We’re going to do it in a deliberate and thoughtful and step-by-step manner, but it’s important that we do it.”

Carter said it’s simply unfair that transgender service members have to go outside the military to get medical care for procedures doctors judge as “medically necessary.”

As of right now, transgenders can no longer be discharged for being open. Other policies of integration will be implemented over the next 12 months. In 90 days, the Department of Defense will release both a commanders’ guidebook on how to lead transgenders and a guide to doctors for how to offer “transition-related care.”

On that date, service members will be able to start the process of officially changing their genders in the personnel system.

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