Retired officers express 'grave concern' with Trump's defense of transgender military policy

Retired officers express 'grave concern' with Trump's defense of transgender military policy
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More than 40 retired military officers are expressing “grave concern” with the Trump administration’s defense in court of its transgender military policy, saying it could “undermine the integrity of United States military judgment.”

“Military judgment is a solemn responsibility of each Commander-in-Chief and of the military chain of command,” the 41 retired generals and admirals wrote in the statement, obtained first by The Hill.

“In a polarized climate, the defense of anti-transgender discrimination using ‘military judgment’ as a pretext risks inflicting harms that go well beyond the context of transgender service, threatening trust in the national security apparatus.”

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The most senior officer to sign the letter is retired four-star Gen. Johnnie Wilson, who led U.S. Army Materiel Command from 1996 to 1999.

A spokesman for the Palm Center, which organized the statement, said it appears to be Wilson’s first public statement on the issue of President TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE’s transgender military policy.

Most of the rest of the signatories have previously signed statements denouncing the policy.

The statement comes a day before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the policy. Lawmakers are slated to receive testimony from transgender service members and Pentagon officials.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stay two district court orders that blocked Trump’s policy from taking effect. The ruling allows the administration to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military.

The new policy still has not taken effect, though, because of one remaining injunction placed on it by a federal district court in Maryland.

Trump first announced over Twitter in July 2017 that he intended to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.

Then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump's 'Enemies List' — end of year edition The US can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE later released a policy in March 2018 that would allow transgender people to serve in their biological sex.

Transgender people and their advocates argue the policy is still effectively a ban akin to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

The administration, though, argues the policy is “based on professional military judgment,” as stated by a Pentagon spokeswoman after the Supreme Court ruling.

In their statement, though, the retired officers said Trump’s policy “contradicts the actual judgment of both current and former senior military leaders, as well as medical research and the experiences our own military and of other militaries.”

“In truth, a solid wall of military sentiment opposes discrimination,” they added.

The statement cited the study carried out by the RAND Corporation commissioned during the Obama administration that found allowing open service would have “a minimal impact on readiness.”

The retired officers also pointed to congressional testimony by the current service chiefs that they have had no reports of effects to unit cohesion, morale or discipline since open service has been allowed. 

“We affirm that transgender Americans should have the same opportunity to serve in our armed forces— and be held to the same health and fitness standards — as everyone else,” the statement said. “And we stand with our fellow service members currently putting their lives at risk for our security — who made the same commitment, and deserve the same treatment, as every American who has ever worn our nation’s uniform.”