Pentagon Temporarily Allows Re-Enlistment of Transgender Troops, Denies Cancelation of Immigrant Enlistment


'The Magnitude of Incompetence is Beyond Belief'

There's been no shortage of controversy surrounding the state of the armed forces since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January.

Most recently, and perhaps most shockingly, the Commander-in-Chief announced a total ban of transgender service members via Twitter, leading to multiple lawsuits and bi-partisan backlash.

On Friday, the Pentagon issued new guidance temporarily allowing the re-enlistment of currently-serving transgender troops, coinciding with reports that the U.S. Army had abruptly canceled the enlistment contracts for hundreds of immigrant recruits.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in the guidance on transgender service members, reportedly said that a high-level panel will determine how to implement Trump's transphobic ban. According to the Associated Press:

The Pentagon refused to release the memo, but provided a summary.

According to the Pentagon, Mattis made clear in his memo that the current policies on transgender troops remain in effect. He said transgender individuals can continue to serve in the military and continue to receive any required medical care.

That interim guidance laid out in the memo will stay in effect until Feb. 21, when the Pentagon must complete its final plan on how and when transgender individuals may serve in the military.

And although the Pentagon denied it, the news coincided with the Washington Post's reporting that recruiters for the U.S. Army had abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of immigrant recruits, leading some former prospects to potentially face deportation.

"Many of these enlistees waited years to join a troubled recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship," the outlet reported late Friday, citing several affected recruits as well as former military officials familiar with the situation.

According to the newspaper, recruits and experts said that recruits are "shedding their contracts to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process," including "extensive background investigations." The goal, reportedly, is to "focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist and thus satisfy strict recruitment targets."

"It's a dumpster fire ruining people's lives," retired Army officer Margaret Stock, who led creation of the immigration recruitment program, told the Washington Post. "The magnitude of incompetence is beyond belief. We have a war going on. We need these people." 

The Post further reported:

On Friday, the Pentagon denied ordering a mass cancellation of immigrant recruit contracts and said there were no incentives to do so. Officials said that recent directives to recruiters were meant to reiterate that immigrant recruits must be separated within two years of enlistment unless they "opt in" for an additional year.

But some recruits among half a dozen interviewed for this article said they were not approaching that two-year limit when their contracts were canceled, sowing confusion about the reason they were cut loose. The Pentagon declined to address whether messages to recruiters contained language that could have been misinterpreted.

They also cited a memo from the Pentagon, which listed 2,400 foreign recruits who had signed contracts but had not yet been naturalized or attended basic training. "The document acknowledges 1,000 of those troops waited so long that they are no longer in legal status and could be exposed to deportation," they reported. "That number probably has climbed since the memo was drafted in May or June."

As with the transgender ban, some in Congress are banding together to fight against the measures. Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Richard Durbin have filed a defense authorization bill amendment to allow recruits to stay in the U.S. until their background checks are finished.

Harris took to Twitter to defend the recruits:

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke out against the transgender ban on Friday, co-sponsoring legislation which would bar Donald Trump from removing transgender troops. His words could also easily be applied to potential immigrant enlistees:

"When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country," McCain said. "Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve—including those who are transgender."

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Image by US Air Force via Flickr and a CC license

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