DOD Records Regarding Recommendations Related to Transgender Policy

Department of Defense records from 2016 and 2017, prior to President Trump’s tweets on July 26, 2017, announcing that transgender persons were no longer permitted to serve in the military.


Documents from 2016

Pages 10–15: In a memo dated June 20, 2016, signed by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the secretaries of the military departments were directed to take action toward the accession of transgender individuals in the military, and to revise both recruitment activities and internal protocols in preparation.

Pages 16–26: On November 4, 2016, then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sent a directive clarifying policies regarding the inclusion of transgender people. The policies addressed restroom use, medical attention and health care, and said that “Commanders are expected to implement appropriate policies to ensure the privacy protection of individual Sailors and Marines out of courtesy to all and to maintain good order and discipline.” 

Documents from 2017

Pages 3–4: On May 25, 2017, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer emailed a memo with the subject line “Readiness of Military Departments to Implement Accession of Transgender Applicants into Military Service.” The memo requested a delay for implementing the acceptance of transgender individuals until July 1, 2019, to allow for further analysis on how the medical and health-care needs of trans individuals may impact the “overall readiness” of the Army. 

“Accessing additional individuals when the only empirical evidence collected suggests a 19% permanently non-deployable rate hurts the overall readiness of the force and reduces the ability of the Army to achieve our statutory mission of providing prompt and sustained combat operations. As we have just begun retaining transgender Soldiers, insufficient data exists to determine if more time would resolve the associated non-deployable conditions.”   

Page 5: Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley sent a memo on May 31, 2017, requesting a delay in the acceptance of transgender individuals into Navy ranks until July 1, 2018. Stackley wrote that “both the Navy and Marine Corps are prepared to begin accessing applicants on July 1, 2017,” but argued that a “one-year delay will enable [the Department of the Navy] to assess the effectiveness of our policy to evaluate, treat, and integrate transgender Service Members within the existing population.” 

Page 6: On May 8, 2017, Robert O. Work, then deputy secretary of defense, directed the secretaries of the military departments to assess the readiness of their departments to accept and support openly transgender applicants into military service. 

Page 7: Navy Admiral J.G. Foggo wrote a memo addressed to the acting secretary of the Navy on May 22, 2017, and wrote: “Mr. Secretary, we are prepared to access transgender (TG) applicants into military Service on July 1, 2017. […] While Navy sees no impediments and assesses limited risk to start accessing TG applicants, I would not oppose a shift in the final implementation date if required by our sister Services.”

The letter lists the criteria that the Navy used to determine its readiness, including policy reviews and changes, clarifications in personnel policies, approaches to care for transitioning sailors, recruiter preparations, and completed trainings for Navy command. 

Pages 27–28: Heather Wilson, then the secretary of the Air Force, sent a memo on May 31, 2017, to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work concerning the readiness of the Air Force to implement the accession of transgender applicants. Wilson said, “we recommend a 12-36 month delay from the current 1 July 2017 accession policy implementation to allow for a period of further study to assess the readiness implications of transgender accessions. We reaffirm our commitment that currently serving transgender members be allowed to serve openly, freely, without discrimination and to ensure that all Airmen have the opportunity to focus onthe mission and be successful. […] We believe that the combination of developing, but still immature, medical information and information received from Combatant Commands (CCMDs) raises significant concerns.”