The Pentagon is facing tough budget choices that could reduce the nation's fighting force so badly military leaders are begging Congress to cut pay and benefits instead, but it's good to see Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has his priorities straight.

Oh, wait ...

In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Hagel said he's open to considering whether transgendered people should be allowed to serve in the military.

"The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated, because it has a -- a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we -- we put our men and women in -- in many cases, don't always provide that kind of opportunity," he told Martha Raddatz.

"I do think it — it continually should be reviewed. I'm open to that, by the way. I'm open to those assessments, because, again, I go back to the bottom line. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."

Translation: The Defense secretary — whose department is struggling to keep existing troops armed and on the job without cutting military benefits servicemembers and their families have earned with blood, sweat and tears in 12 years of war — is "open" to spending scarce funds to ensure that someone who's had (or wants) a sex change gets the right kind of medical attention in an austere environment, just so they can serve in the military.

Because that's a crucial national interest right now.