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Navy, Marines chiefs say no morale issues with transgender troops

Navy, Marines chiefs say no morale issues with transgender troops
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The top officers of the Navy and Marines said Thursday that they have no evidence that unit morale and cohesion has been negatively affected by the open service of transgender individuals.

But the commandant of the Marines added that some commanders have raised issues about the medical needs of some transgender troops.

“I am not aware of any issues in those areas,” Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in response to a question from Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Pentagon watchdog knocks top admiral for handling of sexual harassment case Gillibrand backs Manchin, Bredesen despite their support of Kavanaugh MORE (D-N.Y.) about unit morale amid service by transgender troops.

“The only issues I’ve heard of is in some cases, because of the medical requirements of some of these individuals, that there is a burden on the commands to handle all the medical stuff," he continued. "But discipline, cohesion of the force, no.”

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Gillibrand asked Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson about the issue during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

Last month, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE signed a memo banning most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances.” The memo gave Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' Trump unsure if Mattis will stay: 'He's sort of a Democrat' Army discharged more than 500 immigrant recruits in one year MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTop Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows Hillicon Valley: Officials warn of Chinese influence efforts | Dow drops over 800 points | Tech stocks hit hard | Google appeals B EU fine | James Murdoch may be heading for Tesla | Most Americans worried about election security MORE, who oversees the Coast Guard, “authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”

No new policy can go into effect immediately, as courts have issued preliminary injunctions that require the Pentagon to continue allowing open service while lawsuits work their way through the court system.

Trump’s memo was signed in conjunction with the release of a report Mattis submitted to the president outlining his recommendations on how to handle transgender troops. Among the issues raised in the report was the potential of such individuals to disrupt unit morale.

In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Gillibrand he has not heard of any issues with unit cohesion in the Army because of the open service of transgender troops.

On Thursday, Gillibrand asked Neller to elaborate on what he meant by the medical requirements of transgender troops being a “burden.”

“For commanders, some of them have said, ‘No, it’s not a problem at all,’” Neller said. “Others have said that there is a lot of time where this individual is maybe or may not be available. So we’re all about readiness. We’re looking for deployability.”

Neller also said he’s met with four of the 27 Marines who have come out as transgender since their open service has been allowed, adding he “learned a lot” from the meetings.

“We had a very candid and frank conversation and I respect … their desire to serve, and all of them to the best of my knowledge were ready and prepared to deploy,” Neller said. “And as long as they can meet the standard of what their particular occupation was, then I think we’ll move forward.”

Richardson also told Gillibrand he was not aware of any issues with unit morale and cohesion.

“By virtue of being a Navy sailor, we treat every one of those sailors regardless with dignity and respect that is warranted by wearing the uniform of the United States Navy. By virtue of that approach, I am not aware of any issues,” Richardson said.

He added the service was applying lessons it learned from the integration of women into service aboard submarines. 

“It’s steady as she goes,” Richardson said. “We’re taking lessons from when we integrated women into the submarine force, and one of the pillars of that is to make sure there were really no differences highlighted in our approach to training those sailors. That program has gone very well. So maintaining that level playing field of a standards-based approach seems to be a key to success and that’s the approach we’re taking.”