Top general: Transgender troops shouldn't be separated from military

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday he has advised Trump administration officials that transgender troops should not be separated from the military.

Asked by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Senators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff CNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill MORE (D-N.Y.) whether he agrees that currently serving transgender troops have served with “honor and valor,” Gen. Joseph Dunford replied, “I do.”

“I believe that any individual who meets the physical and mental standards and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve,” continued Dunford.

When asked by Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) whether he can promise that currently serving transgender troops will not be separated based solely on their gender identity, Dunford said that’s been his advice as the Pentagon reviews its transgender policy.

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“I can promise that that would be my advice,” he said. “What I just articulated is the advice I provided in private, and I’ve just provided in public.”

Dunford made the comments during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be confirmed for a second term as Joint Chiefs chairman.

Dunford was first nominated to be chairman by former President Obama in 2015. In May, President Trump nominated him for a second term.

In July, Trump announced on Twitter that he planned to ban all transgender military service, and in August he followed through by signing a presidential memo.

The memo prohibits the military from enlisting transgender people and from using funds to pay for gender transition-related surgery. It also gives Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem In Africa, defense without diplomacy and development is a losing strategy McCain pledges 'rigorous oversight' after Air Force failure to report Texas gunman's conviction MORE six months to determine what to do with transgender troops who are currently serving in the military.

Mattis said he would establish a panel of experts to determine how to implement Trump’s order and that currently serving transgender troops would not be separated from the military while that study is ongoing.

Gillibrand, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (R-Ariz.), committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem McCain pledges 'rigorous oversight' after Air Force failure to report Texas gunman's conviction Dems furious over Air Force failure to report Texas shooter's conviction MORE (D-R.I.) and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program A bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Maine) have introduced a bill that would block Trump’s transgender ban by prohibiting the Pentagon from involuntarily separating or denying the re-enlistment of transgender troops solely on the basis of gender identity.

Asked by Gillibrand on Tuesday whether he’s met with transgender troops since Trump’s announcement, Dunford said he has not, but committed to do so. 

“I have not since I guess August when the announcement was made,” he said, “but I will certainly do that.”