Pentagon sets deadline for services to stop enforcing vaccine mandate

The military services have until March 17 to rescind their COVID-19 vaccination policies, according to a Pentagon memo signed Friday, including reversing any existing flags or in-process involuntary separations for service members who have refused vaccination.

The guidance follows Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Jan. 10 recision memo, which formally ended the vaccine mandate for service members.

Some services have already moved out, at least in part. The Army last month internally directed commands to stop kicking people out for vaccine noncompliance.

The Navy and Marine Corps formally rescinded vaccine requirements in January. The Navy also announced this week it is now allowing unvaccinated sailors to deploy on ships, though liberty may be restricted during port visits to some countries, and the Marine Corps is following suit.

“DoD Component policies, directives, and guidance have not been operative since the January 10, 2023, memorandum was issued, regardless of the status of the DoD Component conforming guidance,” the Friday memo reads. “DoD Component heads shall formally rescind any such policies, directives, and guidance as soon as possible, if they have not done so already.”

Following DoD’s memo, the Army issued its post-mandate guidance on Friday. . . .

. . . Austin’s January memo directed any veterans who received discharges to apply for records upgrades through their service’s board of corrections, including changing reenlistment restrictions that required vaccination.

Though some Republican lawmakers have pushed for reinstatements and back pay for discharged troops, the law that forced DoD to repeal the mandate did not include those provisions, and the Pentagon has said they aren’t considering those measures.

“We are not pursuing, as a matter of policy, backpay for those who refused the vaccine,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters in January. “At the time that those orders were refused, it was a lawful order.”. . . . . (read more on

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