By Tom Vanden Brook
WASHINGTON — Two transgender cadets — one each at the Air Force and Army military academies — will be allowed to graduate this month after passing exams but will not be permitted to join the ranks of the military’s newest officers, USA TODAY has learned.
The Air Force and Army will not commission the cadets after graduation because the Pentagon has not yet established procedures for accepting new transgender troops in its ranks. The names of the cadets and their new genders were not released by the military. They must still pass exams in order to graduate.
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter rescinded the Pentagon’s ban on transgender troops. The policy immediately allowed transgender troops to serve openly. However, the policy for accepting new troops is scheduled be developed and phased in this year.
“Currently, there is an Air Force Academy cadet who has identified as a transgender individual,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an academy spokesman. “The cadet can graduate. But, per the current (Defense Department) transgender policy, this cadet cannot commission into the Air Force. However, we are strongly recommending this individual for Air Force civil service as an option for continued service after the academy.”
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on May 24.
The Army also has a transgender cadet who is scheduled to graduate, pending final exams, but will be unable to join the active-duty ranks, said Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman.
"We can confirm that a military academy cadet has identified as transgender, however, per the current Department of Defense medical accessions policy, this cadet cannot commission," Smith said in a statement.
West Point will not recognize the cadet's preferred gender at graduation, but instead the candidate's biological sex.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is scheduled to give the commencement address at U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 27.
When Carter announced the ban was being dropped, he also issued guidance on how the military would develop its policy to accept and recruit transgender troops. Transgender recruits and new officer candidates will be required to be certified by a doctor as stable in their preferred gender for 18 months before they can enter the military, according to Carter’s directive.
But those policy guidelines were developed during Carter’s tenure in the Obama administration, which also eliminated the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. That rule banned gay and lesbian troops from serving openly. It’s unclear how the Pentagon under Mattis will handle policies for transgender troops under the Trump administration.
Senior military officers expressed misgivings last year about repealing the ban on transgender troops, several Defense officials said at the time. Dunford did not appear with Carter when he announced its repeal at a Pentagon press conference.
There are as many as 6,600 transgender troops in the active-duty military force of about 1.3 million, according to RAND Corp. estimates. The annual price tag for the troops’ treatment, ranging from counseling, hormone treatment and surgery, was put at between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, according to RAND.
By late last year, about 100 active duty transgender troops had sought medical treatment under the policy.
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