Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away

Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE on Wednesday directed Acting Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperOfficials say Trump to announce withdrawal of more than 4,000 troops from Afghanistan soon Trump greeted with cheers at 120th Army-Navy game Overnight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week MORE to develop a policy that will allow athletes enrolled at service academies to play professional sports immediately upon graduation, reversing a policy his administration implemented in 2017.

"Highly talented cadets and midshipmen who receive the extraordinary benefits of an education from an Academy or through a ROTC program at taxpayer expense should be able to both take advantage of the short window of time during which playing professional sports is realistically possible, while also honoring the commitment they have made to our Armed Forces and our country," press secretary Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE said in a statement.

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Trump signed a presidential memo that gives Esper 120 days to develop a policy that would authorize graduates of service academies to go directly to the pros, "consistent with their military service obligation."

"Once implemented, the President’s policy will empower our cherished Academies to compete even better in sporting activities against other colleges and universities, benefitting student-athletes and the Armed Forces," Sanders said. "The President wants our military to be strong in all respects, even in athletics."

The president said earlier this year during a Rose Garden ceremony awarding the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy that he was open to changing the policy for service academy athletes. 

Current Pentagon policy allows athletes to obtain a waiver to play pro sports after serving two years on active duty. That rule was implemented by then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week James Mattis: Afghanistan papers not 'revelatory' Overnight Defense: Watchdog to audit company's border wall contract | Pentagon to step up vetting of foreign students after Pensacola | Report finds former defense official sexually harassed staffers MORE in 2017, who rescinded a 2016 decision allowing certain athletes to bypass active-duty service entirely and fulfill their obligations in the reserves while playing professional sports.

The Pentagon said in 2017 it was changing the rule to ensure military preparedness.

Trump nominated Esper last week to serve as the full-time Defense secretary. His nomination must still be sent to the Senate, where he will need confirmation before taking over the job.