ICYMI: Rogers Leads HASC Republicans in Seeking Answers from DoD on COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Washington, October 3, 2022
House Republicans demand answers on Pentagon COVID vaccine mandate amid punishments for unvaxxed soldiers
By Brooke Singman, Kelly Laco
October 3, 2022
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are demanding answers from the Pentagon on the status of its coronavirus vaccine mandate as unvaccinated service members continue to be subjected to punishments.
In August 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo making COVID vaccines mandatory for service members.
Republicans, led by Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., on Monday wrote a letter, exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital, to Austin, seeking to "clarify" his position on the mandate after President Biden said in a recent interview that "the pandemic is over."
"Pandemic restrictions have been lifted across the country and state and federal courts have enjoined enforcement of employment-based vaccine mandates," Rogers and his GOP colleagues wrote. "It is our understanding that members of the Armed Forces are now one of the only few groups in the Executive Branch still subject to termination for failure to take the vaccine."
Rogers pointed to the 48 pending court cases against the Biden administration challenging the vaccine mandate.
Rogers and Republicans on the committee also pointed to the Department of Defense’s inspector general memo in June, which raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of the process used to consider religious accommodations for service members who oppose vaccination.
The DOD inspector general said it found "a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies," and said the "volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning."
Rogers and Republicans, in their letter to Austin, requested a briefing on the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In the briefing, the lawmakers are requesting officials provide information on the timeline to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, or an explanation as to why the order remains in place; a "determination" on how Biden’s comments about the end of the pandemic "affects" the Pentagon’s determination to enforce the mandate; and a review of how COVID-19 has impacted operational readiness for U.S. military.
The lawmakers also are requesting a summary review of litigation against DOD for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate; an assessment of how the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is impacting recruitment and retention in the Armed Forces, as well as what consideration is being made to offer "reinstatement" to those service members who were separated because of a refusal to take the COVID vaccine; and actions taken to address the flawed COVID-19 religious accommodation process.
"We would appreciate a timely response to our request considering we are finalizing the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act," Rogers and Republicans wrote.