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Pentagon: Mattis to advise Trump on transgender troops this week

Pentagon: Mattis to advise Trump on transgender troops this week
© Greg Nash

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters US, South Korea cancel another military exercise Top US Afghan commander drew his sidearm during this week's attack: report MORE will provide President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE with his recommendations on transgender troops sometime this week, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday. 

“The secretary will provide his recommendation to the president this week regarding transgender individuals and military service, and the president will announce his decision,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at her semi-weekly briefing Thursday.

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In tweets over the summer, Trump announced his intentions to ban transgender people from serving in the military. He followed through with an August memo prohibiting the military from enlisting transgender people and from using funds to pay for gender transition-related surgery.

The memo also gave Mattis six months to determine what to do with transgender individuals currently serving in the military.

Several courts have blocked the ban from coming into force while lawsuits against it are pending.

Following the memo, Mattis convened a panel to review the issue and make recommendations on the policy. He give himself a Feb. 21 deadline to finish and advance his advice to Trump.

Asked why Wednesday’s deadline passed without action, White stressed it was a self-imposed deadline and said Mattis is taking his time due to the complexity of the issue.

“This is a complex issue, and the secretary is taking his time to consider the information he has been given,” White said. “It’s an important issue, and, again, he sees all of his decisions through the lens of lethality. And as you said, it was a self-imposed deadline.”

She also did not rule out that Mattis would buck the recommendations of the panel, saying the Defense secretary “could decide to do whatever he likes with respect to his recommendation.”

“The panel’s recommendations were just that,” she said. “The secretary considered those recommendation and his own thoughts, and he had his own conversations and now he’s prepared to provide his recommendation that’s been informed by those conversations.” 

Last week, the Pentagon released a new “deploy or get out” policy that says anyone who has been nondeployable for 12 months or more will be separated. The timing of the announcement has led some observers to link the new policy to the issue of how to handle troops transitioning genders, as a policy that applies to the entire force has a better chance of passing muster in a court.