WASHINGTON – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he’s open to a review of whether to allow transgender people to serve in the military.
“I do think it continually should be reviewed,” Hagel said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I’m open to that.”
Since the 2011 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gay and lesbian troops from serving openly, transgender advocates have called on the Pentagon to expand such opportunities. Transgender people remain prohibited from military service.
The Pentagon’s treatment of transgender people came to the fore last year after Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, convicted of leaking classified intelligence, announced plans to become a woman. A Kansas judge last month approved Manning’s request to change his name from Bradley to Chelsea.
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Hagel said any decision on allowing transgender people to serve would be more difficult than ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it,” Hagel said. “These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity.”
The Pentagon isn’t reviewing whether to allow transgender people into the military and has no plans to study it, said a Defense Department official who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the policy.
“I go back to the bottom line,” Hagel said, in explaining his willingness to consider a policy change. “Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.”