Pentagon leaders are finalizing plans aimed at lifting the ban on transgender individuals in the US military, with the goal of formally ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service, senior US officials said.
An announcement is expected this week, and the services would have six months to assess the impact of the change and work out the details, the officials told AP today.
Military chiefs wanted time to methodically work through the legal, medical and administrative issues and develop training to ease any transition, and senior leaders believed six months would be sufficient.
During that time, transgender individuals would still not be able to join the military, but any decisions to force out those already serving would be referred to the Pentagon, the officials said. One senior official said the goal was to avoid forcing any transgender service members to leave during that time.
Several officials familiar with the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the issue publicly before the final details have been worked out.
The officials said Defense Secretary Ash Carter has asked his personnel undersecretary to set up a working group of senior military and civilian leaders to take an objective look at the issue, identify any problems and develop uniform guidelines.
One senior official said that while the goal is to lift the ban, Carter wants the working group to look at the practical effects, including the costs and what impact, if any, it would have on military readiness.
Transgender people, those who identify with a different gender than they were born with and sometimes take hormone treatments or have surgery to develop the physical characteristics of their preferred gender are banned from military service in the US.
But studies and other surveys have estimated that as many as 15,000 transgender people serve in the active duty military and the reserves, often in secret but in many cases with the knowledge of their unit commander or peers.
US military leaders have pointed to the gradual and ultimately successful transition after the ban on gays serving openly in the military was lifted in 2011.
Although legislation repealing that ban passed Congress in late 2010, the military services spent months conducting training and reviews before the decision actually took effect.