A month after the Defense Department canceled the requirement that service members are vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness office has yet to complete the requested paperwork to make the change a reality for thousands of unvaccinated troops in limbo.
The long delay has prompted lawmakers to reach out to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with their concerns.
Defense Under Secretary Gil Cisneros, DoD’s personnel chief, told Military Times on Jan. 11 that his office was looking into specific policies on religious considerations and combatant command regulations with respect to traveling to countries with vaccine mandates.
“There are still things that we need to kind of tie up,” he said.
But that process is still ongoing, a Pentagon spokeswoman told Military Times Thursday, though lawmakers first asked for an implementation plan on Dec. 23.
“The Department is working to leverage existing policies and procedures, where appropriate, to manage post-repeal issue sets and is examining whether additional guidance is necessary,” Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman said.
In a Feb. 8 letter sent to the Pentagon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the chairman of its subcommittee on military personnel pressed Austin for answers on the new guidance, saying that a Jan. 26 letter from his office on their progress was only four sentences long and “failed to include any implementation plan.”
“While we acknowledge and appreciate your rescission memorandum writ large, many questions remain and have gone unanswered regarding the implementation of the rescission,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., wrote in the letter.
The representatives included a list of 14 questions for DoD, including data on involuntary separations for vaccine refusal, service members required to pay back bonuses and confirmation that any academy graduates denied their commissions for refusing the vaccine were still able to earn their college degrees. . . . (read more on Military.com)