Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley found out that President Trump intended to bring back a ban on service of transgender troops the same way everyone else, he said on Thursday: The news.
But though senior Pentagon leaders did not receive calls from the White House before Trump’s three-part Twitter announcement Wednesday, Milley told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., there’s nothing unusual about that.
“I personally did not, but nor would I have expected to,” Milley said. ”It’s a chain of command thing and I render my advice through the chain of command.”
In other words, he gives his opinions to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who pass it along to the president, but notification doesn’t work in the other direction.
“The president didn’t say, ‘Hey Mark, I’m doing this.’ No,” he added. ”Again, some people are trying to make this out as if this is particularly unique.“
The president’s Wednesday announcement did come ahead of any notification, however, and so no timeline has been set for implementation.
In a Thursday memo to the joint chiefs, Dunford explained that no steps would be taken until the White House had notified Mattis and an implementation plan could be drawn up.
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions,” he wrote.
Trump’s announcement came almost a month after Mattis announced a six-month delay on the Pentagon’s decision whether to allow transgender Americans to enlist or commission into the military.
Per orders issued last summer by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the department had until July 1, 2017 to finalize its accessions policy.
In the meantime, Carter lifted the ban on currently serving transgender troops, and in September released a plan for those service members to transition while serving and change their gender markers in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Milley confirmed that the Army will continue to operate under current policy until new guidance is issued, but conceded that allowing transgender troops to serve is not without complications.
Among those are medical costs associated with transitioning, as well as readiness risks for some soldiers who will be non-deployable during parts of their transitions.
“I’ll be candid, there’s a variety of issues,” he said. ”This is a complex issue and there’s a variety of challenges out there that we have to deal with, and we’ve been working through it.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.