File photo taken on July 26, 2017 shows that people attend a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, New York City, the United States. (REUTERS Photo)
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed a memo that effectively bans transgender individuals from joining armed forces.
The memo requires Secretary of Defense James Mattis to determine in the coming months how to handle those already enlisted, based on criteria, including military effectiveness, budgetary concerns, and law.
Trump's directive gives the Department of Defense six months to formulate an implementation plan set to go into effect on March 23, 2018. The policy also applies to the Department of Homeland Security that houses the Coast Guard.
It also orders a stop of government funding for sex-reassignment surgeries for active personnel unless the process is already underway.
The move, which came a month after Trump tweeted that he would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military in any capacity, reversed a policy started under his predecessor Barack Obama.
The previous administration had failed to identify a sufficient basis to terminate what was then a long-standing policy on transgender troops, according to the memo.
The Trump order was praised by social conservatives, while it drew criticism from civil rights groups.
Last month, Trump tweeted that the government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.
The military "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he said then.
A ban on transgender people serving openly in the military ended last year, but a year-long review was put in place to allow the Pentagon to figure out how to bring in new transgender recruits into the military.
Trump's late July announcement came after Mattis delayed the implementation of the new plan on the eve of the one-year deadline for the military to upgrade medical standards for transgender service members.
Mattis said late in June that the Pentagon needs more time to assess whether the new policy would affect the ability of the U.S. military to defend the country.
A Pentagon-commissioned study in 2016 showed that there are an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender service members in the U.S. military.
It concluded that allowing them to serve openly would have a minimal impact on the readiness and health care costs of the 1.3-million-member U.S. military force.