A plan to allow transgender recruits to join the United States military beginning on Saturday has been delayed for six months by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a Pentagon spokeswoman said on Friday.
The 11th-hour decision byMr. Mattis will allow service leaders to “review their accession plans and provide input” as they consider what impact adding transgender recruits would have on “the readiness and lethality of our forces,” the spokeswoman, Dana W. White, said in a statement.
The delay was announced one year after the Pentagon lifted its ban on transgender people serving openly in the armed forces.
Military leaders formally requested last week that Mr. Mattis approve a delay, The Associated Press reported on Friday. The news agency quoted a memo it obtained in which the defense secretary noted that his decision to defer “does not presuppose the outcome of the review.”
The decision pauses the gradual transformation of the military fostered by President Barack Obama and Ashton B. Carter, the former defense secretary. Before lifting the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving openly, Mr. Carter opened all combat roles to women and appointed the first openly gay Army secretary.
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When Mr. Carter lifted the ban, the Pentagon also began a broad, yearlong training program meant to gradually iron out the changes that would come about for service members. The plan was for transgender people to be able to enlist or enroll in school beginning on Saturday.
Instead, the services will “defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018,” Ms. White said in her statement.
The delay does not affect transgender troops who are already serving openly in the military, The A.P. reported.
Estimates of the number of transgender service members have varied, but the number most often cited comes from a study by the RAND Corporation, which said around 2,450 of the approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members were transgender.
New York Times