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Friday, December 1, 2023

GAO: U.S. Coast Guard Issues and Policies Related to Sexual Orientation

The U.S. Coast Guard, a branch of the armed forces located within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), collects limited information on the sexual orientation and gender identity of active-duty service members and does not know the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in its ranks. Military policies pertaining to the sexual orientation and gender identity of active-duty service members have fluctuated over time. Current policy is that LGBTQ+ service members are allowed to serve. Coast Guard officials stated they maintain parity with Department of Defense (DOD) guidance and requirements for collecting and maintaining military personnel information. Officials said they are awaiting further guidance from DOD before considering collecting additional information. Because of the limited availability of information, the Coast Guard has not assessed barriers for LGBTQ+ service members. However, the service has taken certain steps to support LGBTQ+ service members, including implementing a voluntary diversity and inclusion education program that includes discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity and recognizing and supporting Pride Month celebrations.

Further, the Coast Guard has implemented a gender transition request policy but has not always adhered to the policy’s timeframes for review and approval. In June 2021, the Coast Guard modified its policies and standards to ensure transgender members are able to serve on active duty, in accordance with Executive Order 14004. Coast Guard policy states that service members requesting a gender transition should receive a response containing an approval or denial of their request within 90 days, which aligns with DOD policy. However, the Coast Guard has not always met the designated timeframes. GAO’s review found that 7 of 16 approved gender transition requests submitted from September 2021 through June 2023 surpassed the 90-day timeframe. Collecting information on gender transition request timeframes and using the information collected to identify and address the causes of any delays would help ensure the Coast Guard is following its policy and better position it to efficiently respond to these requests.

The Coast Guard is responsible for protecting and defending more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways. To accomplish its missions, the Coast Guard employs more than 40,000 active-duty service members. According to the Coast Guard, the service is committed to ensuring a supportive and inclusive environment free from discrimination and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

GAO was asked to examine issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity of Coast Guard active-duty service members. This report addresses the service’s policies and actions related to sexual orientation and gender identity among its active-duty service members. GAO reviewed relevant laws and Coast Guard policies, analyzed Coast Guard data, and interviewed agency officials.

Read the full report here.

Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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