US Navy Secretary says 'any patriot' should serve in military after Trump's transgender ban

Donald Trump’s Navy Secretary has said he is prepared to follow any order the President gives regarding transgender troops, but suggested that “any patriot” who meets the requirements should be allowed to serve in the military. 

“We will process and take direction of a policy that is developed by the [Defence] secretary [with] direction from the president and march out smartly,” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters after visiting Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

“On a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military,” he added. 

The chief of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, has pledged not to “break faith” with his transgender service members.

Mr Trump announced in a series of tweets last month that he would reverse a decision by his predecessor President Barack Obama to allow transgender people to serve openly in the US armed forces. The directive sparked uncertainty about the future of thousands of transgender people already serving in the US military. 

The Senate confirmed Mr Spencer as Navy Secretary the week after Mr Trump made the announcement. 

On Thursday, Mr Trump said he thinks he’s “doing the military a great favour” by banning transgender troops. But his directive has been widely condemned within the military and by more than 50 former generals and admirals. 

“It’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor,” Mr Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

During his confirmation hearing last month, Mr Spencer said he believes that individual military branches should not be a “Petri dish for social experiments,” meaning that policies should be developed by the Pentagon as a whole.

“I totally believe that policy should be developed at the DOD level, and then discussed and socialized and deployed and then obeyed,” he continued. “We have to work together, including all our service people, to make sure that they are given what they need, whether that be spiritually, whether that be psychologically, whether that’s materialistically, to fight forward so that — so readiness is the key and lethality is the product.”

Neither the White House nor the Department of Defense have yet conveyed or promulgated a new policy on transgender service members. 

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military, has said there will be “no modification” to the military’s transgender policy until the White House issues a directive through formal channels. 

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Mr Dunford wrote in a message to military officials. 

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