Republicans say mandate harming military readiness

U.S. Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) is leading the charge of Republican lawmakers demanding answers from the Department of Defense regarding the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate’s impact on military readiness.

Johnson, along with Congressmen Chip Roy (TX-21) and Thomas Massie (KY-04), have submitted a letter signed by 47 Republican Members of Congress to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin demanding a response after it was released the Pentagon failed to meet recruiting goals while alleging nearly 8 percent of the U.S. Army’s population faces expulsion for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Biden Administration’s military vaccine mandate is clearly harming military readiness by creating unnecessary recruiting and retention shortfalls. And now, after the Pentagon has tried, and failed, to make up the difference by reducing recruitment standards, over 100,000 service members — who taxpayers paid to train – face discharge during the worst recruiting year in our military’s history. All of this over an illness that is extremely unlikely to have any significant effect on our service members. Until the Secretary of Defense withdraws this disastrous mandate, or begins rapidly granting more exemptions, the readiness and professionalism of our Armed Forces will suffer,” Johnson stated in an official release on Wednesday.

The letter submitted to Austin states that the Army has cut its projected fiscal year 2023 end-strength by 12,000 soldiers.

The letter cites Department of the Army data that shows at least 40,000 National Guardsmen, 20,000 Army Reservists, and at least 15,000 active-duty Army soldiers have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

That vaccination status puts those service members at threat of discharge based upon the Biden Adminstration’s mandate that all service members be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by June 30.

In the letter, Republican lawmakers call into question information presented to the House Armed Services Committee in July by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army that claimed fewer than 20,000 soldiers were unvaccinated.

“The Army has not published updated data for months. The opaqueness of the Department continues to frustrate Members of Congress attempting to perform oversight of the Executive Branch. Our repeated inquiries remain unanswered,” the letter reads.

Roy said he disapproved of the vaccine mandate on military service members, calling the order “tyrannical.”

“Through their tyrannical military vaccine mandate, this Administration is intentionally forcing out thousands of the brave men and women who sacrifice to serve our country. This de facto ideological purge will continue to undermine our military readiness for years to come,” Roy said.

Representative Massie said he wants more details on the alleged high-number of denials by the Biden Administration to requests from service members for religious exemptions, calling such denials “fraud”.

“Our letter asks the Department of Defense to provide the data needed to determine if the DOD is perpetuating this fraud on our military personnel. A policy of blanket denials is unjust, especially when the COVID shots forced on the military by the Secretary of Defense were not FDA approved as is legally required for any compulsory vaccine,” Massie said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been raising concerns over military recruitment numbers since the summer as projected fiscal year end numbers began to flow in. In July, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called on the Pentagon to ramp up its support of service members to better encourage new recruits.

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