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The Joint Chiefs.  Photo by Jack Gruber

General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chefs Of Staff, expressed his disagreement with President Trump’s summary ban on transgender men and women serving in the military, the Pentagon said yesterday.

By Nathan James

Dunford, the Marine Corps’ most senior officer, who previously served as its Commandant, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I believe any individual who meets the physical and mental standards, and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving, should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve.” The general also promised Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that he would discuss the matter with active and reserve service members, while the Defense Department works out implementation of an executive order signed by Trump last month, which prohibits transgender individuals from joining or serving in the armed forces.

General Joseph Dunford

The ban arose out of a series of Tweets made by Trump inn July, in which he announced that “after consulting with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.”

Those Tweets, now official policy, took the Pentagon by surprise, coming as they did while Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation. Since then, other military leaders have echoed Dunford’s opinion on trans troops. “I will not break faith with our transgender sailors,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, who commands the US Coast Guard. He noted that “all our transgender members are doing meaningful Coast Guard work.

The executive order affects some 15,000 active and reserve troops, who are currently deployed all over the world.

Mattis, for his part, seemed overwhelmed by Trump’s actions. When asked last month how the Pentagon would carry out the President’s directive, he said, “Everyone just keep, hold on until we get through all the fights we’re in.”

The Defense Department is conducting a six-month evaluation of how to execute the orders, during which time existing active-duty and reserve transgender soldiers and sailors may continue to serve. The military has ended recruitment of transgender men and women, and no longer provides transitional gender-reassignment surgery, as per the White House’s instructions.

In August, a coalition of 56 retired generals and admirals publicly expressed their opposition to Trump’s transgender ban, saying it “would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.