The Army’s latest guidance on COVID-19 states that a provision in the latest defense bill overturning the service-wide vaccination mandate does not apply to the National Guard or Reserves, according to documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Department of Defense to rescind the August 2021 memo requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for military service members. The DOD did so after President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Dec. 23.
However, an update to the Army’s policy, dated Dec. 22, says the provision does not address a second memo from November 2021 applying the vaccine mandate to the National Guard and Reserves and preventing unvaccinated members mobilized under state, rather than federal, orders from being paid.
The Army’s latest guidance appears at odds with official DOD statements.
“The Department is pausing all actions for all service members related to the COVID-19 mandate, to include separation,” DOD spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz said in a statement to the DCNF.
“While the Department of Defense is developing further guidance, the Army is suspending the processing and initiation of involuntary separations based solely on a Soldier’s refusal to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley told the DCNF.
The NDAA instructs the DOD to rescind the COVID-19 mandate “pursuant to the memorandum dated August 24, 2021” but does not mention Austin’s follow-up instructions from November.
“I feel fairly certain that most of America, and certainly most of the congressmen … that supported that lifting of the mandate, thought it applied to the Guard,” retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, who serves as chairman of Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services and lobbied Congress to have the mandate repealed, told the DCNF.
“This is pretty egregious.”
The National Guard has a 91 percent vaccination rate, with 5,440 troops refusing the vaccine, while the Army Reserves has a 92 percent vaccination rate and 4,507 refusals, according to the latest Army data.
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