WASHINGTON — The Defense Department could announce as soon as this week how it will lift the ban on transgender persons serving in the U.S. military, according to several defense officials.
However, the final decision, as of Friday, had not been made and officials cautioned an announcement could be delayed until a future date.
It is not clear how far the Pentagon will go in lifting the ban in terms of the procedures and rules under which a transgender person can serve in the military, officials say.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced last year he wanted to lift the ban and would study the “readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.” But it’s expected the service will now have to come up with a specific plan for implementation.
“The secretary continues to work very closely on this. This is a topic of regular discussion here right now. I can tell you that we have made progress,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said this week. “He has indicated that he expects to make a final decision soon.”
But Mac Thornberry, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had a series of questions for the Pentagon which remained unanswered.
“In particular, there are readiness challenges that first must be addressed, such as the extent to which such individuals would be medically non-deployable,” Thornberry said in a statement Friday. “Almost a year has passed with no answer to our questions from Secretary Carter. Our top priority must be warfighting effectiveness and individual readiness is an essential part of that.”
The decision comes with broader acceptance of transgendered individuals in the U.S. The Obama administration last month ordered that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms in public schools that match their gender identity. The policy has been met with backlash from social conservatives, some of whom argue that the policy may allow sexual predators to come in contact with children.