WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s trio of tweets announcing a ban on transgender individuals from joining the military, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley took questions at a scheduled event on Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
“I’m really here to talk about the New England Patriots … recent other news, probably not a good topic right now,” Milley began. “I’m kidding,” he laughed.
He went on to explain that he has yet to “receive implementation guidance, implementation directives from the Department of Defense.”
“We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it and then we will move from there and to my knowledge, the Department of Defense hasn’t received written directives yet,” Milley said.
Prior to Milley’s remarks, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a message to military officials, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
Meanwhile, Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White issued the following statement:
The Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the Commander-in-Chief’s announcement on military service by transgender personnel.
We will provide detailed guidance to the Department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented.
The Department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and ongoing operations against our foes while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.
“It should be no surprise to anyone that the entire forces and the entire chain of command always has, will today, will tomorrow, and always should treat every single soldier, sailor, airmen, Marine, and Coast Guard with dignity and respect for their service and the cloth of our nation, bar none.”
Following his opening remarks, Milley continued to field a few more questions regarding the transgender ban.
Below is a transcript of his responses to the questions:
Q: “Has the Army faced problems with transgender people serving in its ranks?
A: “I mean, look, I will be candid there is a variety of issues. This is a complex issue and there is a variety of challenges out there that we have to deal with and when we’ve been working through it, but this is not clear cut either way. So, the short answer to your question is, yes, yeah, we’ve had to deal with problems, we don’t get it in the media, we deal with it professionally, quietly, with dignity, and respect for the individual and institution.”
Q: “Did you have advanced knowledge that the president would be issuing the ban via Twitter yesterday?”
A: “I personally did not, but nor would I have expected to. I notice that’s been in the media out there. Like I said up front, it’s a chain of command thing and I render my advice through the chain of command which in my case would be General Dunford and Secretary Mattis, and they would render it back to me. So no, personally, no, the president didn’t say, ‘Hey Mark, I’m doing this.’ He didn’t do that, but nor would I expect him to do it and nor is there any requirement to do that.”
Q: “How did you learn about the president’s decision? When he sent out the tweets yesterday?”
A: “Same way everyone else did. I saw it on the news. But again, we’re trying to make this out, or some people are trying to make this out as if that is particularly unique. If I could count on, if I had a nickel for every time I read decisions in the news over the last 10, 15, 20 years, I’d probably be a pretty wealthy guy right now.”
“So, it’s not particularly unusual to read about things in the media. That’s why in my office I have like six screens and I have the scrolls going every which way and I’m always looking for the breaking news thing … So, you know, the people can say what they want about the media but the one thing you are is fast … accurate sometimes, but fast, fast all the time [laughs].”
The White House said on Wednesday during a news conference that President Trump had “extensive discussions with his national security team” and that Defense Secretary Mattis was aware of the impending decision.