Air Force chief not aware of cohesion, morale issues due to transgender troops

Air Force chief not aware of cohesion, morale issues due to transgender troops
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The top general in the Air Force on Tuesday said his service has not seen any issues with unit cohesion, moral or discipline as a result of open service by transgender troops.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein was asked by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE (D-N.Y.) whether he is “aware of any specific issues of unit cohesion, disciplinary problems or issues with morale resulting from open transgender service members in the Air Force.”

Goldfein replied: “Not the way you’ve presented the question, ma’am, I’m not.”

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“I will tell you that I’ve talked to commanders in the field, first sergeants, senior [noncommissioned officers], and I’m committed to ensure that they have the right levels of guidance to understand these personal issues that they’re dealing with,” Goldfein continued. “And so we continue to move forward to ensure that we understand the issues.”

Goldfein joins Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, Marines Commandant Robert Neller and Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson, who all similarly told Gillibrand at committee hearings in the past two weeks they have seen no evidence of unit cohesion and morale being hurt by transgender troops.

Last month, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address 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 defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Shanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump Citizenship and Immigration Services head out at agency Congressional Hispanic Caucus demands answers on death of migrant children Trump expected to tap Cuccinelli for new immigration post MORE, who oversees the Coast Guard, “authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”

The new policy cannot 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 for transgender individuals to disrupt unit morale.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Goldfein said he learned in meetings with transgender troops about their commitment to serve and how individual each case is.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “It’s very personal to each individual, and that’s why I go back to, we have an obligation to ensure that we understand this medically, and then we can provide our commanders and supervisors the guidance they need to be able to deal with this so they don’t have issues."

Gillibrand also asked Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson who from the Air Force served on the panel that advised Mattis’s recommendations. Gillibrand also asked whether there were any health professionals on the panel.

Wilson said the undersecretary of the Air Force represented the service on the panel and that she did not know if there were any health professional on the panel.

Further asked if she ever recommended a change in the military’s transgender policy, Wilson declined to answer, citing the ongoing litigation.