Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for National Guard troops late last year, with a deadline of June 30, 2022 for troops to have both CDC-mandated shots – or risk losing out on getting paid and trained
House Republicans sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday demanding he lift the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that they say has kept roughly 45,000 National Guardsmen inactive since the end of June.
The memo, obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com, was authored by Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida – a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the first Green Beret elected to Congress.
It’s signed by more than a dozen of his colleagues including GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik and Republican Study Committee leader Rep. Jim Banks.
They call on Austin to lift the vaccine mandate immediately in light of the military-wide staffing shortage and harrowingly fast advancements in rival nation forces like China.
‘All of this is happening with the backdrop of a recruiting and retention crisis the military services have not seen in decades,’ the letter warns.
National Guard troops who have not received two COVID-19 vaccine doses by June 30, 2022 are under threat of, or actively being barred from, federally-funded deployments and receiving pay, according to the Pentagon’s late 2021 vaccine order. They’re also banned from participating in training exercises that vaccinated service members take part in.
That affects approximately 10 percent of the force who are either unvaccinated or awaiting approval for exemptions.
‘Our military has been crippled by the restrictive COVID-19 policies that the Department of Defense under the Biden administration have implemented,’ Waltz told DailyMail.com.
A National Guardsman himself, Waltz warned the military could ‘lose hundreds of highly trained, specialized, and skilled active service members that our nation has invested millions into training if this mandate is not lifted.’
‘At a time when our adversaries, including China, are rapidly expanding and modernizing their militaries, why would the Department of Defense continue to implement a policy that decreases military recruitment, retention, and readiness?’ he added.
The letter is being led by Rep. Michael Waltz, the first Green Beret elected to Congress and a National Guardsman himself
More than a dozen other House Republicans signed onto the message to Austin, including House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (left) and Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Jim Banks (right)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new COVID-19 pandemic guidance earlier this month that placed the emphasis largely on individual decisions, and leveled differences in rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans.
The CDC rescinded its quarantine requirement for people exposed to the virus and backed off from testing people with no symptoms in an effort to ‘minimize the individual and societal health impacts of COVID-19 by focusing on sustainable measures.’
Citing this, House Republicans asked Austin: ‘Why not also reduce the strain on our already faltering military recruitment and retention efforts by taking this new data into consideration, as the CDC has in their new guidance, and revise the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate?’
‘DoD should follow the CDC’s lead and halt the discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated service members now that the science has shown there is no difference in the health recommendations between the two groups,’ the letter states.
Lawmakers claim the mandate is ineffective against the coronavirus and cited the ‘millions of dollars and years in training’ spent by specialized troops who are now forced into inactivity.
”Approximately 45,000 National Guardsmen are unable to participate in crucial training in support of their federal missions due to a vaccine mandate that does not slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus,’ their letter states.
DailyMail.com obtained an exclusive copy of the letter, which cites the CDC’s updated COVID-19 guidance and growing prevalence of natural immunity in pushing Austin to drop the rule
‘Lawful orders must be followed by our service members, but it is also the duty of the military officers and Department of Defense officials appointed over them to thoughtfully reconsider any standing order that has been rendered invalid as the facts on the ground change.’
On a more targeted scale, Waltz asked Austin to consider whether any ‘military specialties or occupations’ could be exempt from the vaccine mandate and if the Pentagon has taken into account the long term effects the mandate would have on current recruitment issues.
House Republicans’ letter also targets the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ – grilling Austin on whether it will shift based on updated guidance about booster shots, and if natural immunity to COVID-19 recovery or treatment could be taken into account.
The letter follows a similar effort in July led by Waltz and Rep. Mike Gallagher, pushing Austin to drop the mandate.
But the Pentagon chief reaffirmed his support for it earlier this year in letters sent to seven GOP governors who took legal action over the policy.
‘To ensure that we maintain a healthy and ready military force capable of accomplishing our mission to defend this nation and to protect the American people, vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential military readiness requirement,’ Austin wrote.
That was months before the vaccine deadline kicked in.
DailyMail.com reached out to the Pentagon for comment on Wednesday.