skip to content

Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Transgender Policy

Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on DOD
Transgender Policy issued 13 July 2015

Over the last fourteen years of conflict, the Department of
Defense has proven itself to be a learning organization. This is
true in war, where we have adapted to counterinsurgency,
unmanned systems, and new battlefield requirements such as
MRAPs. It is also true with respect to institutional activities,
where we have learned from how we repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell,” from our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military,
and from our work to open up ground combat positions to
women. Throughout this time, transgender men and women in
uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to
serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.

The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding
transgender service members are outdated and are causing
uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions.
At a time when our troops have learned from experience that
the most important qualification for service members should be
whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and
enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the
opposite. Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines – real, patriotic Americans – who I know are
being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach
that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit.
Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter.

First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six
months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming
transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under
Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad
Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel
representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this
working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob

At my direction, the working group will start with the
presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without
adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless
and except where objective, practical impediments are
identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all
administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender
dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be
elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make
determinations on all potential separations.

As I’ve said before, we must ensure that everyone who’s able
and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so,
and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect
they deserve. Going forward, the Department of Defense must
and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military’s
future strength depends on it.