U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on NATO expansion and European security at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. May 2, 2014.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Chuck Hagel open to reviewing military’s policy on transgender troops

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled a willingness on Sunday to review the U.S. military’s ban on transgender service members.

“I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way,” Hagel said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “I’m open to those assessments.”

Hagel’s comments come on the heels of a report led by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and retired Coast Guard Rear Adm. Alan Steinman that recommended the U.S. reverse the longstanding ban.

“We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components,” the report, released in mid-March, said.

Still, Hagel claimed in his interview that transgender troops require medical attention that may not be available in the remote areas where U.S. forces are embedded.

He added that he believes “every qualified american who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”