The Pentagon confirmed publicly that the vaccine mandate repeal applies to all members of the armed forces on Friday, despite Army guidance that appears to exempt the National Guard and reserve forces.
A Dec. 22 order from Army headquarters obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation acknowledged that National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) overturned the vaccine mandate but said the law, which President Joe Biden signedon Dec. 23, did not apply to the National Guard and reserves. The Department of Defense (DOD) stated upon enactment it would comply with the law, and on Friday confirmed to the DCNF the National Guard will no longer be subject to a vaccine mandate once DOD formally rescinds the order.
When asked whether the COVID-19 vaccine mandate repeal applies to all servicemembers, including members of the National Guard, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said “yes” in a statement to reporters.
“The NDAA requires that, not later than 30 days after enactment, the Secretary of Defense rescind the mandate that members of the Armed Forces be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Ryder said in the statement. “As a result, the Department rescinded the mandate” and will work on new guidance by Congress’ deadline.
Pentagon guidance dated Dec. 23, coinciding with Biden’s signing of the NDAA, said the DOD “will rescind” the mandate. In the meantime, it has instructed the services to halt all discharges and other actions related to the mandate.
To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready Force. All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. They will protect us, and they will ensure we remain the most lethal and ready force in the world. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/R7q8bshAs5
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) August 9, 2021
“On August 24, 2021, Secretary Austin directed the mandatory vaccination of Service members against COVID 19 to protect the Force and defend the American people,” the guidance said. It referenced a memo imposing the vaccine mandate on all members of the armed services, including the Ready Reserve and National Guard.
However, the Army guidance said the provision in the 2023 NDAA does not address a second memo from November reaffirming the mandate to the National Guard and Reserves, preventing unvaccinated members mobilized under state, rather than federal, orders from being paid, the documents show.
“The FY 2023 NDAA does not address the Secretary of Defense’s directive regarding COVID-19 vaccination for members of the National Guard and Ready Reserve (Annex AAAA),” according to FRAGO 35, an update to HQDA EXORD 225-21, which describes the Pentagon’s COVID-19 policy, that was obtained by the DCNF.
“Commands will continue to adhere to Annex AAAA and to paragraphs 3.D.21-3.D.23 unless and until Annex AAAA is superseded or rescinded by the Secretary of Defense,” the document stated.
Annex AAAA refers to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s Nov. 30, 2021 memo addressing continued resistance among National Guard troops against complying with the mandate.
It is unclear whether the Army has issued updated guidance since Dec. 22. The Army did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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