President Donald Trump made a huge deal out of his plans to reinstate the ban on transgender military service on Wednesday. But a day later, it turns out that it’s not even clear if this will ever become actual policy.
According to Reuters foreign policy correspondent Idrees Ali, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have told the military that there will be no change in trans policy until they receive official guidance from the president.
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter, according to Reuters.
The announcement comes just one day after Trump tweeted that he would bring back the anti-trans ban, which President Barack Obama’s administration moved to repeal during Obama’s last year in office. Trump argued, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” (Studies based on the experiences of other countries that allow trans military service, such as Israel, Canada, and the UK, show that, in fact, allowing trans people to serve openly has little to no effect on military readiness or costs.)
In simple terms, the Joint Chiefs are saying that the US military will not set policies based on the tweets of the president — and will instead require a formal memo or order to actually do what Trump wants.
“We don’t have guidance. We have a tweet. We don’t execute policy based on a tweet.” Capt. Jeff Davis, DoD spox on @POTUS’s transgender ban.— Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) July 27, 2017
Army COS Gen. Milley says he has received no implementation guidance on transgender ban. Can't do anything until that guidance comes.— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) July 27, 2017
It’s unclear whether Trump will actually follow through on his tweets and officially ban trans troops through a more official process.
Even yesterday, Trump’s ban on trans troops was on uncertain ground — with a total lack of clarity on whether the ban would force the military to immediately discharge trans troops. At the daily press briefing, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “That's something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”
So now Americans must wait around to see if the president’s tweets will lead to actual policy changes in the real world.
For more on Trump’s anti-trans military policy, read Vox’s explainer.