Trump Halts Pentagon Payments for Transgender Surgery

Image: Defense Secretary James Mattis
Defense Secretary James Mattis made the comments during a joint press conference with British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (not pictured) on Friday.Jack Taylor / Getty Images

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By Ali Vitali

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday stopped funding for sex-reassignment treatment for transgender people currently in the military and barred the Pentagon from accepting any more transgender people into the services.

The president signed a memo giving new guidance to his previously-tweeted ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military, according to a senior White House official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Trump signed the memo, the details of which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, on Friday and directed the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to stop funding of sex-reassignment procedures and deny entry of transgender individuals into the military.

Openly transgender individuals will be barred until the Secretary of Defense "provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing," Trump's memo reads.

The Trump administration official was unable to answer questions about whether the estimated thousands of transgender service members currently serving would be allowed to remain in the military.

The administration's guidance gives Defense Secretary James Mattis some leeway when considering whether individual transgender service members would be allowed to continue to serve. The defense secretary would be able to consider military effectiveness, unit cohesion, budget restraints and other factors, the administration official said.

The Pentagon and Department of Defense have six months to develop an implementation plan.

Asked if at the end of the six-month period it would be possible that transgender people already serving will continue, the official said the administration didn't have "anything to say beyond the policy enunciated in the memo."

Trump first articulated his unexpected and abrupt policy change about transgender service members in a series of tweets last month, saying:

"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming...victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

Trump campaigned as a friend to the LGBTQ community, even praising the audience at the Republican National Convention last summer when they cheered his mention of the group. But even after the president's decision to bar transgender people from the military — a policy blasted by LGBTQ groups — the White House is still defending Trump's credentials as a friend to the community.

"The president is a president for all Americans," the senior administration official said Friday.

The basis for the Friday directive, the official added, is "national security concerns."