Guidelines Expected Soon On Transgender People In The Military
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
First came the tweets from President Trump. Last month, he announced on Twitter a ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. Now come official guidelines, which the White House is expected to deliver to the Pentagon in coming days. They reportedly will ban transgender people from enlisting. And Defense Secretary James Mattis will be authorized to kick transgender service members out if there's an issue of deployability (ph). Here's the president talking about this issue recently.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think I'm doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it's been a very complicated issue for the military. It's been a very confusing issue for the military. And I think I'm doing the military a great favor.
GREENE: Let's talk to Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island about this. He is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, good morning.
JACK REED: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So it sounds like the White House is concerned about, quote, "deployability" - I guess the idea that transgender people may not be as deployable. What do you take that to mean?
REED: Well, first, I think the decision was reached by the president for political reasons without any policy analysis. It caught the defense officials off guard, totally. They were looking at the analysis and doing it by tweet is not the best way to inform national defense policy. I think what they're suggesting now is that there are in fact members of the armed forces who are transgender who are doing a good job. In fact, defense leaders have sort of stood by them in this crisis. But they don't want anymore. And that's sort of an internal contradiction. If there are transgendered individuals in military service who even the White House suggests could serve, then there's no reason to bar others of the same category who could come in.
GREENE: Well, if I may, let me just ask you, I mean, when you mentioned that the Pentagon being caught off guard - and Secretary Mattis sort of acknowledged that, but he said he has been studying the issue. And he said to reporters, recently, he was going to address whether or not transgender people can serve - under what conditions, what medical support they might require, how much time they might be non-deployable. I'm wondering, is he talking there about, you know, reassignment surgery and the idea that people might be unable to serve for a period of time for having that surgery? And is that a fair question to ask?
REED: I think if there's an issue, as with any medical condition in the military, if the individual, you know, can effectively over a sustained period of time carry out his responsibilities or her responsibilities, that's a fair question. I think some of the evidence we've seen is that these individuals who are transgendered don't have more of a medical liability than other soldiers who have an operation - a gallbladder removal or, you know, surgery like that. But, you know, that's something, again, that should be done through analysis not by tweet.
That's something that should be done after carefully studying a whole range of issues and then determining on military expertise what's in the best interest of the services. And I think one goal also, too, is to allow Americans who want to serve their country and who can serve their country to do so.
GREENE: It sounds like - I mean, there are going to be a lot of people who say this is just an outright discriminatory announcement and policy. But it sounds like you might be willing to work with the Pentagon to study this and some of the so-called deployable - deployability issues that they have brought up.
REED: Oh, I think it's a fair question to ask. And I think it should be - ideally, in my view, they should report back to the president and to the Congress. And then we could take effective action.
GREENE: That is Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. He is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee talking this morning about new guidelines for transgender people in the military. We're expecting that from the White House in the coming days. Senator, thanks for the time. We appreciate it.
REED: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.