Washington: US President Donald Trump has signed a memo ordering the Pentagon to ban an Obama-era plan of recruiting transgender individuals in the military, a move Democrats said was "cruel" and meant to "hurt and humiliate" American soldiers.
In a memorandum, a copy of which was released by the White House, Trump directed the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the US Coast Guard, to return to the longstanding practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June 2016.
In the memorandum, Trump alleged that his predecessor Barack Obama dismantled the Defense Departments' established framework by permitting transgender individuals to serve openly in the military, authorising the use of its resources to fund sex-reassignment surgical procedures, and permitting accession of such individuals after July 1, 2017.
"In my judgement, the previous administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the?departments' longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year's policy change would not have those?negative effects," Trump said.
The memorandum has requested the Pentagon to develop an implementation plan for the ban by?February 21, 2018, which should be put in place on?March 23, 2018.
Last month Trump had announced his decision in this regard on Twitter.
Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White said the Department of Defense has received formal guidance from the White House in reference to transgender personnel serving in the military.
"More information will be forthcoming," she said.
Criticising the decision, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump's memorandum is ordering the Pentagon to hurt and humiliate thousands of Americans who serve in US military with strength and courage.
"Prejudice, not national defense, is behind President Trump's cruel decision to kick transgender troops out of the military," she said.
"A study commissioned by the Department of Defense itself found that the cost of providing medically necessary care for transgender troops would be miniscule. In fact, every year, the Pentagon spends five times more on Viagra than they would for transition-related care," Pelosi said.
"This is a political decision that's more about attacking transgender Americans than keeping us safe. If you doubt the ability of transgender troops to complete their mission, you should do your homework. Transgender troops have served in some of our most elite units and graduated from our premier military academies - preventing them from serving is wrong and it's un-American," said Democratic Congressman Patrick Maloney.
Maloney is the first openly gay member of Congress from New York and a Co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
After 22 years together, he married his husband Randy Florke in June 2014 in Cold Spring, New York where they live with their three children.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler said that military service is a privilege, not a right.
"I'm pleased to see the president putting military readiness first and making sure our defense dollars are spent keeping us safe. With the growing threats from Iran, North Korea, China and others, the US military cannot afford to divert precious defense dollars from our national security," she said.
"Every dollar must be spent investing in new military technology, getting the right equipment for our troops, and making sure we are protected from threats across the globe," Hartzler said.
Last year, former US President Barack Obama had decided to allow transgenders to serve in the US military.
Announcing the decision on June 30, 2016, the then Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had said that the Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain the finest fighting force the world has ever known.