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Secretary Mattis Issues Interim Guidance on Transgender Personnel Service

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has issued interim guidance on military service by transgender individuals based on direction received from a presidential memorandum, Defense Department officials said today.

The guidance takes effect immediately, Mattis directed.

In a memorandum to the services and DoD components, the secretary said the interim guidance will be in place until no later than Feb. 21, 2018, when he presents the president with a plan to put in place the policy and directives of his memorandum.

Policy, Standards, Procedures

“Consistent with military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints and applicable law, the implementation plan will establish the policy, standards and procedures for transgender individuals serving in the military,” Mattis wrote in his memorandum.

And supported by a panel of experts, the deputy defense secretary and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will propose recommendations supported by “appropriate evidence and information,” for the secretary’s consideration, he said in his memo.

 “To comply with the presidential memorandum, ensure the continued combat readiness of the force and [to] maximize flexibility in the development of the implementation plan, the … interim guidance … will remain in effect until I promulgate DoD’s final policy in this matter,” the secretary said in the memo.

The Coast Guard is included in the guidance, according to an agreement with the acting secretary of Homeland Security.

The interim guidance on accessions, medical care and treatment, in-service transition for transgender service members and retention of transgender service members are outlined in the interim guidance.

Basics of Interim Guidance

“First and foremost, we will continue to treat every service member with dignity and respect,” the guidance says.

-- Accessions: The procedures dated April 28, 2010, which generally prohibit the accession of transgender individuals into the military services remain in effect, because existing or history of gender dysphoria -- a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life -- or gender transition does not meet medical standards subject to the normal waiver process.

-- Medical care and treatment: Service members who receive a gender dysphoria diagnosis from a military medical provider will be given treatment for the diagnosed medical condition. As directed by the memorandum, no new sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel will be permitted after March 22, 2018, except as necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her gender.

-- In-service transition for transgender service members: The policies and procedures in DoDI I300.28 dated July 1, 2016, remain in effect until the defense secretary puts into effect DoD’s final guidance.

-- Separation and retention of transgender service members: Service members who have completed their gender transition process, and whose gender marker has been changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System will continue to serve in their preferred gender while the interim guidance is in effect.

An otherwise qualified transgender service member whose term of service expires while the interim guidance is in place may, at his or her request, be reenlisted in service under existing procedures.

As directed by the memorandum, no action may be taken to involuntarily separate or discharge an otherwise qualified service member solely on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status. Transgender service members are subject to the same standards as any other service member of the same gender: They may be separated or discharged under existing bases and processes, but not on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)