July 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced Friday the Pentagon has approved a six-month delay before allowing transgender people joining the military.
Ahead of the July 1, 2017 date previously set by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Mattis released a memo announcing he will use the delay to work with service chiefs and secretaries to evaluate the prospect of allowing transgender people to enlist.
"We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality," he said.
The delay will place the new deadline at Jan. 1, 2018. In the interim, transgender troops will be allowed to continue to serve, but new transgender recruits will have to wait to be able to serve openly.
Military LGBT advocacy group OutServe-SLDN said the delay is a "disservice to the transgender community and to our military as a whole."
"Transgender service members have been serving, openly and authentically, since October 2016 with no impact on readiness," the group said in a statement. "It is time to full lift the ban on transgender service by implementing this final piece by implementing the accessions policy."
The American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group backing LGBT military rights, also expressed disappointment in the delay.
"This six-month delay is disappointing because it unnecessarily delays the ability of transgender people to be open about their identity when entering the military," the group's president, Ashley Broadway-Mack, said. "It has been unequivocally proven that allowing qualified transgender people to serve openly strengthens our military and creates a more inclusive and diverse force. The issue has been thoroughly studied, and moving forward with this new recruitment policy is imperative in order for the military to be able to recruit the best talent our nation has to offer."
Mattis ordered the results of the review be available by Dec. 1 and added that the delay "in no way presupposes the outcome of the review" or changes policies currently in effect.
"I am confident we will continue to treat all Service members with dignity and respect," Mattis said in the memo.