Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) late Thursday decried the idea of transgender people being allowed to serve openly in the military during the GOP debate.

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“The military is not a social experiment,” he said. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”

“It's not to transform the culture by trying out some idea that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America. I’m not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, makes our country safer.”

He then moved to a broader argument about military readiness.

In July, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the creation of a working group to examine “the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.” He also said that questions about whether to discharge “those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender” would be handled by the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.

In recent years, the medical system of the Department of Veterans Affairs has also moved to improve the care it provides to transgender people.

The military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ended in 2011, but that only lifted the prohibition on service based on sexual orientation.