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Defense Secretary James Mattis Is Following Trump’s Orders On His Transgender Military Ban

Some saw his recent statement as an act of defiance.

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr.

Aug. 25, the White House issued a memo to the Department of Defense with formal guidance for a policy change that would ban transgender people from serving in the military. This came weeks after Congress and the military were caught off guard by Trump’s announcement of the policy via Twitter.


On Tuesday evening, Defense Secretary James Mattis released a statement saying transgender troops will continue to serve in the military, pending the results of a study. “The department will carry out the president’s policy direction,” Mattis said in a statement. “I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”

Many journalists and social media users interpreted the statement as a blatant disregard for Trump’s orders.


A closer look shows that Mattis is obeying the White House’s dictate. The White House memo says transgender service members are allowed to stay in the military up to March 23, 2018. It also calls for the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan on how to implement the ban, which is why Mattis will convene a “panel of experts” to provide “advice and recommendations.”

White House memo:

“By February 21, 2018, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall submit to me a plan for implementing both the general policy set forth in section 1(b) of this memorandum and the specific directives set forth in section 2 of this memorandum.”

Mattis’s response:

“As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law.”

Some may have misconstrued Mattis’s statement as an act of defiance because of a recent speech he made to a small group of American troops. “You’re a great example of our country right now,” he said. “Our country, right now, it’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.” While many took his comments as a dig at Trump, he could have just as well been alluding to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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