Defense secretary sworn in as ban against transgender service members is lifted

Politics

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A couple of sharp differences between the Trump administration and the Biden administration were made clear Monday at the Pentagon with diversity being the day’s watchword.

The nation’s first Black vice president ceremonially swore in the nation’s first Black secretary of defense.

Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted: “Today I swore in Lloyd Austin as the Secretary of Department of Defense. Secretary Austin’s integrity, experience, and intimate knowledge of the issues facing our military make him the right leader for this moment,” said the vice president.

President Biden on Monday also reversed a Trump administration ban on transgender servicemen and women.

“What I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform and essentially restoring the situation that existed before with transgender personnel, if qualified in every other way, can serve their government in the United States military,” said Biden.

Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki elaborated on the meaning of the president’s executive order.

“No one will be separated or discharged from the military or denied reenlistment on the basis of gender identity,” she said. “And for those transgender service members who were discharged or separated because of gender identity, their cases will be re-examined.”

Tony Perkins, the president of the Conservative Family Research Council criticized the decision. He argues it would divert “precious dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery.”

Overall though, a number of military experts do not foresee major defense policy changes from the old to the new administration. 

“When it comes to defense, I think the differences we’re likely to see are going to be more about tone,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And, you know, the words that are used and the way that we relate to our allies and partners. I think when it comes to defense strategy, we’re going to see more continuity than change. When it comes to the defense budget, we’re going to see more continuity than change. So I think that people may be a bit surprised. But, you know, this has been true for decades that there’s a lot more bipartisan agreement when it comes to national security issues than just about any other area of government.”

But one sticking point may involve U.S. forces in Afghanistan which have been reduced considerably by the Trump administration in accordance with an agreement signed almost a year ago. 

Last week, at his confirmation hearing, Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken told senators “we have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated.”

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