The newly discovered directive, obtained by USA Today, does not eliminate the rule that allows transgender soldiers to be discharged for their gender identity, but the proposal would make it more difficult to remove such troops from service.
Instead of being made by lower-level Army officers, the memorandum says, the decision to discharge transgender soldiers would be made by the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel.
Currently, transgender troops can be automatically dismissed from service on medical grounds once they are identified.
“Assigning responsibility for discharge decisions to a senior official would be a welcome step toward inclusive policy, but transgender troops will still have to serve in silence until more is done to dismantle the ban,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, which has published research on sexual orientation issues in the military.
The new Army directive comes days after it was announced jailed Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who is transgender, has been approved for hormone therapy.The Army had no comment about the memo, but Senior Defense department officials confirmed to USA Today that the Army is considering the change.
Last year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military “continually should be reviewed,” adding that “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
New Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is set to be sworn in on Tuesday after his confirmation last week.