The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday the US military won’t change its policies on transgender service members until President Trump spells out how his surprise ban will work.
“There will be no modification to the current policy until the president’s policy has been received by the secretary of defense, and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Marine General Joseph Dunford wrote in a memo to “Service Chiefs, Commanders and Senior Enlisted Leaders.”
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” the general added..
“As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”
Dunford’s memo is further evidence that the Pentagon was blindsided by the president, who decreed in a series of tweets the day before that transgender people would be banned from serving in the US military ”in any capacity.”
Questions swirled about how Trump’s ban, which reverses an Obama administration policy, would work immediately after it was hastily announced on Twitter.
One of the main questions was how transgender people currently serving — estimates say there are about 4,000 or even more — would be affected.
Dunford and other top military brass were not aware that Trump was going to announce the transgender ban on Wednesday, a US official told AP, and the chairman’s decision puts the political hot potato back in the White House’s court.
Trump and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders both claimed Wednesday that the president made a strictly military decision.
Sanders even threatened to walk out of a press briefing when reporters pressed her to answer questions about the ban that she did not want to address.
But reports surfaced that Trump issued the ban as a sop to GOP conservatives who were threatening to hold up a budget bill that included cash for Trump’s border wall and other priorities.