Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter repealed the U.S. military’s ban on transgender service members Thursday, but the Pentagon still has a number of decisions to sort through in the coming months.
In his remarks, Carter focused heavily on why he thought the repeal was the right thing to do, noting there are presently at least 2,500 transgender troops on active duty. But he also laid out a multi-layered implementation process that requires numerous decisions in coming months by service chiefs and senior civilian officials in the Pentagon alike.
1. Forming rules for restrooms, showers and other day-to-day functions
Senior defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly, said after Carter’s announcement Thursday that commanders will be given wide latitude to decide how to best equip their facilities for transgender service. In many cases, the officials said, that could be as simple as putting up new privacy curtains in some bathrooms or setting specific shower hours for different kinds of troops.
But other facilities, particularly in basic training environments, may get a look for additional changes. Communal showers still exist on numerous installations, with multiple shower heads in a single room, for example. It’s unclear how that issue will be handled, but Pentagon officials acknowledged Thursday that there may be some one-time costs associated with opening the military to transgender service.
“We’re not sure yet how much, if any, alteration of facilities is going to be involved,” said one senior defense official. “It would be double-digit millions of dollars if there were a decision to take on kind of the maximum facilities alterations.”
Defense officials will recoup at least some of that money by not discharging transgender service members who already have been trained. It’s also likely that commanders won’t seek the most expensive fixes required.
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