"Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction", Mattis announced in an official statement on Tuesday.
Mattis says he's delaying implementation of the order until military experts weigh in on the issue since most experts agree that the ban would be a bad idea. The current policy, which allows transgender individuals to openly serve, will remain intact pending the results of an important study that Mattis ordered in June, just hours before the Pentagon was set to allow transgender recruits to join the military. The Slate report also quoted Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney, saying that Mattis' "statements do not change the directive nor has he been given the power to retain transgender service members indefinitely". The Defense Department has acknowledged "receiv [ing] formal guidance from the White House in reference to transgender personnel serving in the military", according to Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.
Mattis says he'll convene the panel from the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, with the goal of promoting "military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion" - while also following legal and budgetary constraints.
There are lawsuits pending against Trump and the DOD for this ban, including one lead by five anonymous active duty service members and another from the American Civil Liberties Union. First, the ban portion of the memo addresses only "accession", or initial enlistment, of openly transgender persons.
On July 26, President Trump tweeted that transgender people were banned from the military, and his tweet caught many by surprise.
Trump's memo instructs Secretary of Defense James Mattis to further explore how to handle transgender people now serving in the armed forces and orders the Pentagon to stop paying for gender reassignment surgeries, except in cases that are already in progress to "protect the health of an individual".
The defense chiefs also declined to discuss the additional US military support South Korea might need to increase pressure on North Korea.
Mattis has previously expressed that his main concern is military readiness and not political issues. But Mattis previously expressed skepticism toward that study's conclusions, according to the Washington Post, indicating he may be interested in research that leads the Pentagon to an alternate conclusion on transgender troops' military impact. Many other headlines asserted that Mattis' announcement constituted a freeze of or "hold on" Trump's policy.