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(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, saying that the armed services “don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

Carter made the announcement at a Pentagon news conference and said that the change is effective immediately.

Top Pentagon officials had finalized final details of the plan earlier in the week and approval came from Carter.

“The defense department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”

The plan directs each branch of the armed services to implement new policies affecting recruiting, medical care, housing and uniforms for transgender troops. The military services will conduct training over the next couple of months.

Last July, Carter announced lifting the ban and formed a task force to review how that would occur. He directed the task force to work under the assumption that the ban would be lifted.

The task force’s assessment continued beyond the original six-month deadline and recommendations were not presented until February.

“All this represents a sea change from even a decade ago,” said Carter.

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