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Dunford: No modification to current transgender policy

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General Dunford
Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford may weigh in on the results of the Marine Corps’ integrated task force.

Transgender military personnel can continue to serve openly and seek medical care, the nation’s top-ranking military officer said Thursday.

A day after President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets saying the military would no longer “accept or allow” transgender service members “in any capacity,”  Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a message to service chiefs, commanders and senior enlisted leaders reaffirming current policies, at least for now.

“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President,” Dunford said in a statement provided to The Virginian-Pilot by spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks. “There will be no modifications until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford said. “As importantly, given the current fight and challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

The Pentagon announced Thursday it is still awaiting “formal guidance” from the White House on the issue, spokeswoman Dana White said.

“We will provide detailed guidance to the department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented,” White said. “The department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.”

Trump’s tweets stunned the military services Wednesday. He cited “disruption” and “tremendous medical costs” associated with transgender personnel service.

They were immediately met with backlash from many organizations who sought to clarify what Trump’s message meant for those already serving.

Dunford’s message followed a similar one sent Wednesday evening to all flag officers by Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke, who is responsible for all personnel, manpower, training and education matters in the service. The Virginian-Pilot obtained the message Thursday morning.

According to Burke’s message, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Navy “will not take any personnel actions or change any policy until further guidance from the President is received.”

Burke’s message also said medical treatment for transgender service members currently seeking it “does not cease.”

Stacie Walls-Beegle, CEO of the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, said the message “gives us time to organize and inform all of our elected officials about the real impact of this kind of change and how critical these people’s service is to our country.”

Walls-Beegle said the president’s tweets created confusion and chaos, not only within the transgender military community the Life Center supports but also within the larger community, which fears a rollback of other protections.

“It’s emotional,” she said.

Transgender military personnel have been allowed to serve openly since last summer, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban. They have been allowed to seek medical treatment, including gender-reassignment surgery and hormones, since Oct. 1. In late June, Mattis delayed by six months a deadline to allow transgender individuals to enlist in the services.

A 2016 RAND study found there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active-duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves. That report also said transgender care would cost the military’s health system about $2.4 to $8.4 million annually {span}out of an overall $49.3 billion spent on health care by the Defense Department in fiscal 2014.{/span}

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(c)2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) — pilotonline.com

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