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The top US military official said the transgender policy won't change until Trump sends 'direction'


Updated July 27, 2017 11:48 AM EDT

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a letter Thursday that there will be no change in the U.S. military's policy regarding transgender people until President Trump sends specific instructions to the Pentagon.

"I know there are questions about yesterday's announcement on the transgender policy by the President," Dunford, the highest-ranking military offier in the U.S., wrote in a letter addressed to "Service Chiefs, Commanders and Senior Enlisted Leaders." "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance."

"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford's letter continued. "As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."

Updated July 26, 2017 03:01 PM EDT

The White House on Wednesday said that President Trump wants to "protect all Americans," adding that the decision to bar transgender people from serving in America's armed forces is based on "military readiness."

"The president has a lot of support for all Americans and wants to protect all Americans at all times," incoming White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing. "I think the president has made very clear he is fighting for all Americans."

"This was a decision about military readiness," she added. "Once again, this decision is based on what is best for the military. It's obviously a very difficult decision. It's not a simple one."

Updated July 26, 2017 02:58 PM EDT

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks about Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military and other issues Wednesday.

Updated July 26, 2017 02:14 PM EDT

Watch as members of the Human Rights Campaign and National Transgender Equality and members of Congress speak about President Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Updated July 26, 2017 12:13 PM EDT

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement Wednesday condemning President Trump's Twitter announcement that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity."

"The president's tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter," McCain said, also calling Trump's statement "unclear."

"The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today," the statement continued. "Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military -- regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so -- and should be treated as the patriots they are."

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) also pushed back at Trump following his announcement.

"America needs a military comprised of patriots willing to sacrifice for this country," Buck said in a statement to The Denver Post. "Any American who is physically and emotionally qualified should be allowed to serve."

Buck's colleague Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) echoed that sentiment on Twitter.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also chimed in.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter released a statement saying that Trump's action "would send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service."

Meanwhile, ABC News reported that Trump did not inform the Senate Armed Services Committee before making his announcement.

President Trump announced Wednesday morning on Twitter that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity."

“After consultation 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 U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you," he tweeted.

Democratic lawmakers quickly took to social media to voice their opposition and their support for the LGBT community. Republican lawmakers were largely quiet.

In response to Trump's announcement, many on social media pointed to a 2016 RAND study that examined, among other things, the costs of "extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel." The study found that health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.

The study, which looked at previous integration efforts and the experiences of foreign militaries, also indicated that transgender people serving in the military would have "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness."

Some found irony in the timing of the announcement.

Others were angry.

Some thought Trump had the right idea.

In June, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that he was giving military chiefs another six months to determine whether allowing transgender individuals to enlist would affect the "readiness or lethality" of the force. At the time, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the delay in allowing transgender people to enlist would not impact those who are already openly serving in the military.

Earlier in June, the House of Representatives voted against legislation that would have denied transgender service members the medical care needed for gender transition, BuzzFeed News reported.

It remains unclear whether Trump's latest announcement will have any impact on current transgender service members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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