Palm Center Statement on Gillibrand-Collins NDAA Amendment

Sec. Mattis's Limited Discretion on Transgender Troops Won't Prevent a Ban

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -September 11, 2017Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin issued the following statement in reaction to the proposed amendment by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to prevent President Trump from reinstating the military's transgender ban:

​"Congress would enhance military readiness by preventing President Trump from reinstating the transgender ban. Legislative action now would prevent uncertainty and disruption following from a ban and save money that would be wasted recruiting and training replacements. Many Republican leaders have made statements in support of transgender troops defending our nation, including Senators McCain, Collins, Murkowski, Hatch, Portman, Ernst, Tillis, Heller, Johnson, Toomey, Gardner, Shelby and Sullivan, and fifty-six retired Generals and Admirals have said that reinstating the transgender ban would degrade readiness.​

"Media reports have been characterized by misperceptions about what will happen next if Congress fails to take action. Secretary Jim Mattis does not have discretion to ignore the President's order to ban transgender troops and he has not frozen the process. Somewhat similar to his DACA directive, President Trump's transgender policy calls for delayed implementation following a six-month window. The purpose of the delay is not to preserve inclusive policy, but to allow the Pentagon to determine how to transition from its current policy to a ban.

"While the President has provided Secretary Mattis with narrow leeway to allow a subset of currently-serving transgender troops to remain, the ​ban would apply to all other transgender Americans, including those who want to join the military now or in the future and those serving currently who the Secretary fails to retain before March 23, 2018.​ And, service members​ who are provisionally retained before March​ would have no guarantee that this permission would endure, ​and they would serve under a presumption of unfitness and under burdensome standards that apply only to them. By taking action to avoid that disruptive and wasteful scenario, Congress would promote military readiness and sustain the well-being of the troops."

About The Palm Center

The Palm Center is an independent research institute committed to sponsoring state-of-the-art scholarship to enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial public policy issues. Our research on sexual minorities in the military has been published in leading social scientific journals. The Palm Center seeks to be a resource for university-affiliated as well as independent scholars, students, journalists, opinion leaders, and members of the public. For more information, see

Connect with us