WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled “Transgender Service in the Military Policy."
"Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.
"I wish to welcome both of our panels to today’s hearing.
"The House Armed Services Committee has tirelessly focused over the past several years on rebuilding the readiness of our Armed Forces after years of damaging cuts. An integral part of rebuilding and maintaining readiness is recruiting and retaining qualified, effective and able-bodied service members.
"One of the strengths of our military is that we draw from a diverse group of individuals from varied backgrounds and experiences. As former Secretary of Defense Mattis made clear, “It is a bedrock principle of the Department of Defense that any eligible individual who can meet the high standards for military service without special accommodations should be permitted to serve.” In other words, the focus should remain on an individual’s capabilities, rather than establishing blanket policies for certain groups.
"In reading through the written statements of our first panel of currently serving transgender service members, it is clear that you have all earned the respect and support of your commands, you have achieved much, and you continue to serve honorably. One common theme throughout all of your statements is that you all met or exceeded the standards for accession and retention in the military, and that you did not ask for, nor would you have wanted, reduced standards or special treatment.
"The transgender service policy must, like the medical accession standards for all recruits, include an individualized assessment of the recruit’s medical and behavioral health to determine whether they are fit for service. It is when we put in place categorical exemptions for certain groups that we undermine our military’s readiness.
"I look forward to hearing from our first panel about their experience in the service. Though your written statements indicate that you generally had supportive leaders throughout your transitions, I look forward to hearing your recommendations for how the services can improve their support.
"I am also interested to hear from our second panel about the differences between the current transgender service policy and the policy established by former Secretary of Defense Mattis. In reviewing that policy, it seems to me that it eliminates categorical distinctions between different groups of people in favor of individual assessments of a recruit’s medical readiness based on standards applicable to all. I look forward to hearing the current status of that policy.
"It is an unfortunate reality that not every person who desires to serve in the military meets the stringent medical and behavioral health standards needed to maintain a ready and resilient force. However, it only makes sense that any individual who can meet these standards and is otherwise qualified should be allowed to serve.
"With that, I look forward to hearing from both of our panels, and I yield back."