General James Mattis has missed the deadline for advising on how to ban transgender people from the US Army.
The Pentagon was expected to announce its new policy on transgender troops Wednesday following a six month legal battle.
The legal back and forth was sparked by President Trump calling for a ban on trans troops on Twitter in July last year.
Trump announced that all transgender service people would be banned from the US armed forces, claiming they were a burden on the military.
The Pentagon first said it was investigating how to implement the police in September 2017, with a deadline set of February 21.
But when the deadline came the Pentagon admitted that no such advice had been passed on.
Pentagon spokesman Major Dave Eastburn told VOA that Mattis “has his recommendation for the president but has not provided it yet.”
“When he’s ready to provide it, he will,” Eastburn added, noting that Wednesday’s deadline for submitting a plan was one made within the Department of Defense and not one set by Trump.
Pentagon officials refused to elaborate on the missed deadline, other than to say that discussions between Mattis and the president are a “private matter”.
It is now anticipated the deadline could be as late as March 23.
The policy announcement led to a deluge of lawsuits, with a DC judge preventing Trump from blocking an already-written directive to actively permit the enrolment of transgender people.
Lawyers from the Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis earlier this month that they would be bringing a new policy on trans troops forward tomorrow.
The RAND Corporation has estimated that the number of transgender individuals currently serving in the active component of the U.S. military is between 1,320 and 6,630 out of a total of about 1.3 million service members.
It is not exactly clear what the policy will state, but many pundits predict that it will echo the sentiments set out by Trump in his initial tweets – that trans troops will not be allowed.
In a memo written by Mattis in September, the Defence Secretary wrote that the new policy on trans troops would have to be “consistent with military effectiveness and lethality”.
A study which was commissioned by the Pentagon and carried out by RAND, a non-partisan survey company, found that having transgender troops would make a negligible impact on the readiness to deploy.
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The study stated: “In terms of readiness, RAND estimates that 10 to 130 active component members each year could have reduced deployability as a result of gender transition-related treatments.
“This amount is negligible relative to the 102,500 nondeployable soldiers in the Army alone in 2015, 50,000 of them in the active component.”
Since Trump’s tweets announcing the proposed ban, interim guidance was put in place by the Pentagon to temporarily halt trans troops from being forced to leave the service.
The guidance also allowed trans troops to access medical treatment and on January 1, transgender people were allowed to enlist openly.