Pentagon Scrambles to Prep New COVID Rules as Vaccine Mandate Nears End

(Defense One) Pentagon leaders, who must scrap their COVID-vaccine mandate within three weeks, are trying to figure out what happens after that.

The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act—signed into law by President Joe Biden Dec. 23—requires Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to rescind his 2021 memo to vaccinate all military personnel within 30 days of the bill’s signing.

The DOD will do as directed, but officials are “currently in the process of developing further guidance,” Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday. In the meantime, she said, the Pentagon “is pausing all actions for all service members related to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Terence Kelley confirmed the service “is suspending the processing and initiation of involuntary separations based solely on a soldier’s refusal to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate” while they wait for guidance from OSD.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who is expected to be the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wants the Pentagon to provide its plan for repealing the mandate as soon as possible. Rogers sent a letter to Austin on Dec. 23, asking for the Pentagon’s plan by Dec. 31—eight days after the law was signed. . . . . (read more)

2,100 Sailors in Limbo as Pentagon Grapples With End of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate (USNI, 5 Jan 23)

The Navy separated 25 active duty sailors between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28 due to their failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the service told USNI News. Those sailors are likely the last sea service members to receive approved separations over COVID-19 vaccine refusal under the Pentagon’s prior vaccination mandate.

A provision in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 23, removed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active-duty service members.

Of the 25 active-duty sailors, one was an officer, while the other 24 were enlisted, Lt. Rachel Maul, a Navy spokesperson with the Chief of Naval Personnel, told USNI News. Approximately 2,100 sailors received approved separations in the year that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was active.

It is unclear how many sailors had left the service by the time the Biden signed the NDAA and if those with approved separations that had not yet left service will still need to do so.

It also is unclear exactly how the Pentagon will roll out the end of the vaccine mandate and what that means for those who received approved separations. The language in the NDAA did not require the Department of Defense to reinstate service members who had been separated, but it encouraged the Pentagon to look to provide a way for those personnel to rejoin, USNI News previously reported. . . .  (read more)

What’s next for troops previously kicked out for refusing COVID vaccine? (13 News Now, 5 Jan 23)
A lawyer from a firm that represented hundreds of military members who sought vaccination exemptions said the DOD should return them to duty.

. . . . Among many questions which still need answering:

  • How will removing the mandate affect troops in the process of being separated for refusing the vaccine?
  • What becomes of the more than 8,400 service members who were kicked out for refusing the vaccine?
  • How likely is it for the military to reinstate those who were discharged for refusing to get the shots?

“It’s terrible, what happened to those individuals,” said Army veteran Anthony Kuhn, a partner with the Tully Rinckey law firm, which represented hundreds of service members who applied for exemptions to the vaccine mandate.

In an interview Thursday with 13News now, Kuhn continued: “I’m glad the mandate is being lifted. Now, I’d like to see them create an avenue for these service members to get back in the force. Hopefully, what they do is the right thing here.” . . . (read more)

Our Troops Are Still Confused About the Government’s Vax Mandate (SOFREP, 5 Jan 23)

SOFREP previously reported about facemasks coming back to the military. However, new reports indicated that the army is still considering revoking the vaccine mandate, with some personnel still under the requirement.

Around 8,000 military personnel were let go from the Army due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Military Times. However, it is thought that almost all of the remaining servicemen and women have received the jab, as per CNN.

Despite the government’s announcement that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for National Guard and Ready Reserve troops should be revoked in the 2023 defense budget, it still exists in writing, as reported by The Daily Caller. . . . (read more)

Thousands of Troops with COVID Vaccine Exemption Requests No Longer Facing Separation with Mandate Gone (Military Times, 4 Jan 23)

Thousands of troops across all services who had pending religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine are no longer facing the risk of separation from the military after the Pentagon announced it won’t review their cases anymore in the wake of a law eliminating the vaccine mandate.

In total, 17,500 troops were seeking a religious exemption, according to an internal Defense Department document reviewed by An additional 19,000 troops had already had their religious exemption requests adjudicated, with only a fraction being approved across the active duty and reserve components.

The Marine Corps approved the fewest, with only 0.52% of requests approved; the Air Force and Space Force, 2.31%; the Navy, 1.02%; and the Army, 6.04%. . . . (read more)

Flouting Congress, DOD, Army maintains military COVID vax mandate on Guard, Reserves (Just the News, 9 Jan 23)

The U.S. Army is continuing to enforce the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the National Guard and Reserves, despite the recent abandonment of the controversial and legally shaky order by Congress and the Pentagon itself.

On Dec. 23, President Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the $858 billion defense spending bill repealing the mandate. On Dec. 29, the Defense Department followed suit, rescinding the mandate that has frayed military morale and resulted in the discharge of over 8,000 service members who refused the vaccine.

In rescinding the vaccine mandate, the DOD acknowledged the NDAA requires the Defense Secretary to rescind his Aug. 24, 2021 memo issuing the sweeping order.

Last week, however, the Army issued a new guidance, FRAGO 35, which reads: “The FY2023 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). 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.”

Annex AAAA, according to FRAGO 35, is a Nov. 30, 2021 memo from the Secretary of Defense that requires all National Guard members to be vaccinated, as there were “members of the non-federalized National Guard who remain unvaccinated.” . . . (read more)

Pentagon Has Rescinded COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate: Spokesman (Epoch Times, 6 Jan 23)

The U.S. Department of Defense has withdrawn its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a Pentagon official said on Jan. 5.

“We have rescinded the mandate,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a briefing. . . .

. . . .As of late 2022, nearly 8,500 troops had been discharged for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The military has notoriously issued mass rejections for religious requests for exemptions to the mandate, triggering multiple court challenges. Judges had blocked three of the four branches from discharging most members seeking religious exemptions due to the treatment, which the judges said violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Just 0.5 percent of the religious accommodation requests have been approved by the Marines, followed by 1 percent for the Navy, 2.3 percent for the Air Force, and 6 percent for the Army. Thousands of requests were still not adjudicated before the mandate was withdrawn.

Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing members in some of the cases, celebrated the withdrawal of the mandate but said that the legal group would continue pursuing the litigation.

“While we are pleased that Joe Biden’s unlawful and abusive COVID shot mandate will be rescinded, this begrudging reversal under pressure by Congress is not enough,” Staver said in a statement.

He pointed to a Pentagon memorandum (pdf) that stated service members who applied for religious accommodation would have any adverse action taken in response remain in their files. . . . (read more)

One Month Countdown: Navy SEALs Argument Set for February 6 (First Liberty, 6 Jan 23)

First Liberty will be arguing our U.S. Navy SEALS case on February 6. That’s only one month away! We will be facing off against the Biden administration and the Pentagon at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

If you’ve followed our Navy and Air Force cases for the past year, you’re well aware that the Biden administration and military officials have pursued a punitive and vindictive approach toward service members who requested a legal, religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate.

Our military heroes—including some of First Liberty’s own staff members—have been mistreated, discriminated against, denied deployment and advancement opportunities, or even thrown out of the military simply because they wanted to serve in a manner consistent with their beliefs. . . (read more)

Air Force service member says the military could still enforce a vaccine mandate, fight not over yet (Just the News, 9 Jan 23)

Even though the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was repealed through the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, there isn’t anything preventing the government from implementing it again, or others like it in the future, says Air Force Second Lt. Addie Hulet. . . .

. . . .Lt. Hulet has been in an ongoing legal and financial battle with the government along with 10 other officers who refused to get the vaccine and as a result, were denied the ability to do their job.

“We were being told that if we wanted to go active duty, we had to be vaccinated,” Hulet explained. “However, we were not being afforded the measures to file for a religious accommodation because we did not have a chain of command. So we hadn’t reported to our active duty unit yet, and we were no longer attached to our ROTC unit.” . . . (read more)


Leave a Comment