Mattis assembling panel to discuss transgender troops already serving

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is assembling a panel of experts to discuss the matter of openly transgender individuals already serving in the U.S. military.

President Donald Trump on Friday directed the Pentagon to extend indefinitely a ban on transgender individuals joining the military, but he gave Mattis the authority to decide those already serving.

Mattis says in a statement released Tuesday that the Pentagon, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, will develop a plan that “will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion.”

He says, “Panel members will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task. ”

The White House had said Friday that transgender people would be allowed to continue serving until Mattis had completed such an analysis.