Dems want Mattis to reveal experts behind Pentagon transgender policy

Dems want Mattis to reveal experts behind Pentagon transgender policy
© Greg Nash

Top defense committee Democrats are pressing Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE to reveal who sat on a panel of experts that helped draft the Pentagon’s controversial transgender policy.

“We were surprised and disappointed by the recommendations contained in that memorandum. In our view, these recommendations contradict previous findings from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the professional medical community,” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNew York Times: Trump mulling whether to replace Mattis after midterms Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (R.I.) and Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (Wash.), the ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, respectively, wrote in a letter.

Late last month, the Pentagon released a three-page memo and 44-page report Mattis submitted to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE outlining his recommendations on how to handle transgender troops.

Drafted by an unnamed panel of experts of senior uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders, the memo makes recommendations that would prevent the enlistment of transgender people diagnosed with gender dysphoria or those who have already undergone or begun a gender transition.

Troops already diagnosed with gender dysphoria could stay in the military if they do not seek treatment, such as hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery.

The accompanying report argues that people diagnosed with gender dysphoria suffer from high rates of suicide, anxiety, depression and substance abuse and that treatment such as hormone therapy and surgery has not proven effective.

Trump then signed his own memo banning most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances."

The Democrats “feel it imperative that we explore the factual bases behind your recommendations,” as the memo gives Mattis the power to implement appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals. The letter was also signed by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandTeen girls pen open letter supporting Kavanaugh accuser: We imagine you at that party and 'see ourselves' Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage House Dems push to delay Kavanaugh vote for investigation Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month MORE (D-Calif.).

“Although you state that the panel received input from civilian medical professionals, the recommendations appear to us to be inconsistent with what we have heard from the civilian medical community,” the lawmakers write. 

“Numerous recognized experts, former military officials and Surgeons General, and organizations representing medical professionals have released statements criticizing the Report’s recommendations and the underlying scientific basis for these recommendations."

The report’s analysis of medical research has been harshly criticized as misrepresenting the findings or leaving out important context. The American Medical Association, the country’s largest medical organization, told Mattis in a letter that his recommendations “mischaracterized and rejected” evidence on treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lawmakers ask Mattis to name who was on the expert panel, who they consulted with and whether they consulted with any medical professionals with expertise in gender dysphoria. 

The Democrats also want examples of substantial risks associated with the enlisting and retention of transgender troops.

The Pentagon’s transgender policy is currently on hold after courts issued preliminary injunctions that require the department to continue allowing open-service while several lawsuits work their way through the court system.