U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, said on Tuesday that transgender military members will continue to serve while the Pentagon holds a study of how to implement Donald Trump’s transgender ban, which prevents transgender personnel from serving in the military. Last Friday, Trump gave Mattis until February 2018 to come up with a plan to officially put the ban into action.
Mattis along with a panel of experts from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security will “provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.” According to Mattis, the panel will bring “mature experience” and “seasoned judgment to this task”.
Until the panel can come to a consensus, transgender service members are allowed to serve openly in the military.
While the Pentagon doesn’t currently track how many transgender service members currently serve, a 2016 study estimated that there are close to 6,630 transgender service members currently on active duty with about 250 service members currently undergoing gender transition or changing their gender in personnel records.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis continued in his statement. “I expect to issue interim guidance to the force concerning the president’s direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued.”