Former service secretaries accuse Pentagon of deceiving Congress on Trump’s transgender ban

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

Three former Defense Department leaders are accusing Pentagon officials of misleading lawmakers on President Trump’s ban on transgender service members.

Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Army Secretary Eric Fanning – all from the Obama administration – said the Pentagon deceived Congress when officials who testified last week made “the untrue assertion that holding all service members to the same standards affords ‘special accommodations’ to transgender troops.”

“In seeking to justify President Trump’s wrong-headed ban on transgender service members at a Congressional hearing last week, Defense Department officials made misleading claims,” the three write in a statement organized by the Palm Center.

“Under inclusive policy that is currently in effect, transgender service members must meet exactly the same fitness and deployability standards as everybody else, but the witnesses ignored data confirming the success of that policy.”

The three also agreed with a statement put out last week by more than 40 retired military officers, which 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.”

Mabus, James and Fanning in 2017 backed a legal effort to block Trump’s move to oust transgender troops from the military after he tweeted that “the United States Government will will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

In addition, five professors from the U.S. military service academies have penned a memo detailing “deceptive, erroneous and false assertions” given by the DOD officials in written and verbal testimony. 

The officials “misled Congress by asserting falsehoods about readiness and deployment,” the five write in a March 4 document, also organized by the Palm Center.

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis later released a policy in March 2018 that would allow transgender people to serve in their biological sex.

The ban has already drawn several lawsuits which have so far blocked its implementation.

The Pentagon’s top official for personnel policy James N. Stewart defended the policy last week, saying transgender service members will be allowed to continue to serve, though new recruits may be barred if they are diagnosed with “gender dysphoria.”

“The realities associated with the condition called gender dysphoria and the accommodations required for that gender transition in the military are far more complicated than we may assume,” Stewart said in House Armed Services Committee subpanel.

Stewart also said the Obama administration’s policy on transgender service members would “degrade military readiness” in the long term.

The administration has maintained the argument that the transgender policy is “based on professional military judgment.”

But transgender individuals and their advocates argue Trump’s policy is essentially a ban, much like the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

Mabus, James and Fanning agree with the parallel, as they write that “There is no defensible rationale for imposing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on honorably serving transgender troops.”

Tags Donald Trump James Mattis
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