Despite the fact that its requirement for coronavirus vaccinations is no longer in force, the Pentagon stated in a recent letter to Congress that it may discharge as many as 16,000 unvaccinated soldiers.
According to the letter from Gilbert Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel, despite the repeal of the vaccination requirement, military officials “continue to assess cases on an individual basis in order to decide appropriate action” for soldiers who failed to comply with the requirement and did not ask for an exemption.
According to the letter, which stated that around 69,000 soldiers were still unvaccinated but that 53,000 of them had requested some sort of exemption due to religious, medical, or administrative reasons, that would apply to about 16,000 of those troops.
Despite Republicans forcing the administration to repeal the rule late last year through the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Military said the remaining 16,000 may remain susceptible to separation.
Jim Banks (R-IN), the chairman of the military personnel subcommittee, criticized the Pentagon’s practice of punishing soldiers who failed to request an exception.
“Firing patriotic servicemen for refusing to follow a politicized and damaging rule that no longer applies is incredibly divisive and brutal. The Biden administration’s desire to remove conservative service members from the military, in Banks’ opinion, is the only plausible explanation.”
Cisneros was questioned by Banks on the merits of punishing service members for violating a mandate that is no longer in force during a recent hearing. The reason, according to Cisneros, is that the mandate constituted a “lawful order” when it was issued and that soldiers who broke the order by refusing to get vaccinated but still did not request an exemption “did not obey a lawful order.”
Cisneros responded, “Those who denied the vaccination and did not submit a request for an exemption refused a valid order.”
Banks urged him to explain the justification for upholding a revoked mandate.
Cisneros stated, “It is crucial that our military members obey commands when they are lawful in order to maintain good order and discipline.”
Yet, inquiries about whether the vaccination requirement was legal have never received a public response from the DOD.
As previously revealed by the media, the DOD can only impose a vaccination that has been authorized for emergency use if the defense secretary asks for and secures a waiver from the president. Instead, Terry Adirim, a civil servant at the time, claimed in a memo that the EUA vaccine, as well as the FDA-approved vaccine, were “interchangeable.”
Whether Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked for and secured a waiver from President Joe Biden has been evaded by the DOD.