President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender people cannot “serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” repeating a claim from conservative Republicans that transgender service members disrupt the ranks and add medical costs that undermine troop readiness.
The abrupt announcement seemed to stun military leaders, even though Trump said in a series of tweets that he consulted with “my generals and military experts.”
On Tuesday, Foreign Policy reported that Vice President Pence was actively working to reverse the Pentagon’s policies on transgender service members. Hill aides confirmed that lawmakers had been speaking with the vice president and the White House about the legislation in recent weeks.
It’s unclear what impact his decision has on transgender people currently serving in the armed forces. (The announcement came on the 69th anniversary of Executive Order 9981, when President Harry Truman signed ending racial discrimination in the US military.)
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that the Pentagon and White House must still determine details for how to implement the change, but offered no specifics or timeline. Moreover, she could not say what Trump’s tweets meant for currently serving transgender troops. Would they be pulled out of units? Could they sent home from deployments? Sanders said that was yet to be determined.
There currently are military regulations that allow transgender troops to serve, and a tweet cannot undo those. Pentagon officials told BuzzFeed News they read the tweet as a directive to craft the necessary policy and procedure to undo that regulation. It does not appear the branches of the military have been ordered to craft new directives.