On Thursday morning, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did something no one in the White House—including President Donald Trump—seemed prepared to do: Offer a small measure of actual clarity on the administration’s fiasco of a ban on transgender people in the military.
“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the president,” General Joseph F. Dunford wrote in a memo addressed to all “Service Chiefs, Commanders, and Enlisted Leaders.”
There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.
In the meantime we will continue to treat all our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.
Though brief, Dunford’s message is both clear and significant: Trump’s surprise Twitter announcement that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” was just the random rantings of an old man, not actual policy that had been worked on in any way. And, it seems, the military is not exactly chomping at the bit to enact this particular order at all, even though Trump said he’d consulted with “my Generals and military experts.”
Dunford’s memo was echoed, in slightly more detail, in a message sent by Navy Personnel chief Robert Burke.
Both Burke and Dunford’s memos come shortly after reports that the Joint Chiefs were wholly unaware of Trump’s ban to begin with. Even Secretary of Defense James Mattis—upon whose “implementation guidance” the armed services require to actually put the president’s orders into effect—was reportedly only given 24 hours notice of the policy shift. He was on vacation when Trump made his surprise announcement.
It remains to be seen if and how Trump’s announcement will actually be enacted upon Mattis’ return.