The US military prepares for the impact of Covid vaccine mandate removal
On Thursday, the repeal of the US military’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate was one step closer to becoming law. Military officials and experts warn that it could have negative ripple-effects on military readiness as well as the ability of service personnel to deploy all over the globe.
CNN was told by a defense official that the potential impact of the changes is not just on our side. It’s what our partners, and people we would train and collaborate with, are asking us to do in order to enter the country.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released Tuesday, includes a provision that would revoke the Pentagon’s current mandate that troops be given the Covid vaccine. While Republican lawmakers have praised its inclusion, it was denied by the White House. President Joe Biden has not yet indicated whether he will sign it.
On Thursday, the House passed the NDAA by 350 to 80 votes.
Around four out of ten Americans believe that humanity is living in the end times.
Sabrina Singh, Deputy Defense Press Secretary, declined Wednesday to discuss what the Pentagon was planning for if the mandate were repealed. Instead, she stressed that Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary of Defense, believes that the mandate is essential for the strength and health of the force.
Singh stated that getting the vaccine is crucial to the readiness force. It would have an impact on the readiness of the force, Singh said. “You’re more likely to get Covid-19.
It’s not about the US. It’s not just about the US. American troops may need additional vaccines depending on where they are deployed or being rotated through. Singh stated Wednesday that the current Pentagon policy is that service members who haven’t received the vaccine are not eligible for deployment.
“Make our job harder”
Retired Gen. Robert Abrams was the commander of US troops in South Korea and said that the repeal of the vaccine “will make it more difficult to do our job,” referring specifically to the duties of overseas commanders. For entry into South Korea or Japan, which host thousands of US military personnel, the Covid-19 vaccine must be obtained.
Abrams stated that repealing the vaccine mandate would “put the US forces into an awkward position” because the host nation expects us to follow their regulations (and SOFA [status of forces agreement] requires it).
As a repeal of the US military’s Covid vaccine mandate took a step closer to becoming law, military officials and experts say it’s a change that could have ripple-effects on military readiness and the ability of service members to deploy around the world. https://t.co/K8p08IFF75
— CNN (@CNN) December 9, 2022
Republicans have long protested against the Covid vaccine requirement. This is one of over 15 vaccines required depending on where a servicemember is deployed.
Austin signed an August 2021 policy requiring all military personnel to get the vaccine. The services established their own timelines for when troops should be fully vaccinated.
A year later, nearly all US troops are fully vaccinated. 97% of active-duty soldiers, 96% active-duty Marines and 98% active-duty sailors are also fully vaccinated.
Critics of the mandate claim it is pushing out service members willing to serve in a time of greatest military need and preventing recruits from wanting to join the service but not to receive the vaccine.
Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger stated that the mandate was having an effect on recruiting. In particular, “in some parts of the country there are still myths and misbeliefs regarding the backstory behind it.” Capt. Ryan Bruce, a Marine Corps spokesperson, said that Berger was referring to “anecdotal discussions”’ he had with recruiters and not data that shows an impact of the mandate.
Experts and officials raised concerns about the possible impact of the repeal of the mandate on troops who are already wearing uniforms. Rachel VanLandingham is a former Air Force judge advocate and law Professor at Southwestern Law School. She stated that the vaccine could have “ripple effects” on units, in which some service members are not able to deploy.
This is particularly true for smaller units such as those in special operations. Conventional forces might be able to ensure that they have enough personnel to perform a rotation or deployment, but smaller units may face greater difficulties if they are unable to deploy due to a vaccine requirement.
Van Landingham stated that if one unit is unable to travel, then the replacement unit will not be able to. It’s not just one unit. A failure to show up for work in a military unit can have a major impact on the entire unit. The unit’s dependability is affected by that person. It’s a true team dynamic.
Abrams pointed out that vaccines “help prevent serious illnesses” and US Forces Korea does not have the medical capability to treat a large number of very sick infected personnel. However, he stated that US personnel could be sent to Korean facilities if they are not approved by TRICARE (the US military’s health-care provider).
Experts raised concerns about the potential precedent that it would set to reverse a lawful military order that so many people had rejected.
Kate Kuzminski, director of the Center for New American Security’s Military, Veterans, and Society Program, said, “If I were a commander, what concerns would I have about managing someone who has failed to comply with a lawful ordinance?”
She said that she believes there are bigger problems in the social context and culture of the military if they try to rescind a lawful order, which could change the nature of the lawful orders. “You could see people refusing other things that we need them to do in the future.”
One of the most controversial points in the repeal of vaccines is what will happen to approximately 8,000 military personnel who refused to get vaccinated. Some speculate that they will be kept apart because they did not comply with a lawful order, but some lawmakers want them to be reinstituted.
A letter addressed to Republican leadership on November 30, signed by 13 Republican senators, requested that the mandate be rescinded and that service members who were separated “with back pay” are reinstated. Pentagon leaders are apparently discussing this possibility.