December 7, 2017

Former Army Secretary Questions Trump Administration Claim that Military Is Not Ready to Accept Transgender Applicants

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Eric Fanning, former Secretary of the U.S. Army, questioned the Trump administration’s claim yesterday that the military is not ready to accept transgender applicants. According to Fanning, “the Department of Defense was on track to lift the accession ban for transgender service effective July 1, 2017. This was one year after Secretary Carter ordered the Services to ensure that all Americans who could meet the standards should be afforded the opportunity to serve. I can see no reason why the Department should not be fully prepared to execute Secretary Carter’s policy change, particularly after being afforded an extra six months due to the Department’s delay earlier this year.” Fanning served as U.S. Army Secretary under President Obama.

Fanning’s comments follow Brad Carson’s observation yesterday that the military had already prepared for the lifting of the enlistment ban before President Trump took office. Carson, who served as acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Obama administration, said that, “the Pentagon had already done most of the preparation and training in anticipation of the lifting of the accession ban before the presidential transition, so to claim that the military is not ready to lift the ban now seems a stretch.” ​Carson was responsible for personnel policy for all service members, and deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Navy officer.​ Both Fanning and Carson offered their remarks to Palm Center researchers in response to a Trump administration affidavit claiming that the military is not ready to accept transgender troops. A federal court has ordered the military to lift its enlistment ban by January 1, 2018.

According to Aaron Belkin​, processing transgender applicants does not require anything different from what recruiters and examiners do every day. Belkin said that, “there is nothing special about evaluating a transgender applicant for military service, as recruiters and examiners deal with medical documents for every candidate, and handle the confirmation of identity documents, name changes and the like on a regular basis.” Belkin is director of the Palm Center. 

A comprehensive 2016 RAND Corporation study found that lifting the enlistment ban would require only minor regulatory revisions, which were finalized in June 2016. Belkin added that, “The military was ready to lift the enlistment ban one year ago and it is ready to do so today.”

Transgender troops have served openly in the U.S. military for the past 18 months, and have been widely praised by commanders. Eighteen foreign militaries allow transgender troops to serve openly, and none have reported any compromise to readiness.