Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin penned an identical letter to seven governors, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, saying that their states’ Army and Air National Guard members are subject to the Defense Department’s to mandatory Covid-19 vaccine, or they will lose their Guard status.
Austin, ignoring the Dunleavy lawsuit against the Department of Defense and Biden Administration, wrote that the virus “takes our Service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.”
The Associated Press obtained copies of the letters, which have not been publicly released, but were reportedly sent to the governors of Texas, Wyoming, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Alaska and Idaho.
Dunleavy and Abbott contend the unconstitutional vaccine mandate usurps state sovereignty and illegally undermines their authorities as commanders of state National Guard units.
“Our Alaska National Guard has recently responded to winter storm disasters in Yakutat, the Interior, and the Mat-Su. What happens in the next disaster if Guard members can’t be activated because they chose not to get a federally-mandated COVID vaccine?” said Gov. Dunleavy last week. “Protecting the freedom and liberty of National Guard members has fallen on responsible governors. The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority. I pledge to protect that medical freedom and to challenge the trampling of our state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.”
The Alaska Constitution states that the governor is the “commander-in-chief” of the armed forces of the State, and it empowers the governor to order Guard members into active State duty.
The Department of Defense demand to members of the Alaska Army National Guard and Alaska Air National Guard is an improper assertion of federal authority, the Dunleavy-Abbott lawsuit maintains. Because the National Guard has not been placed into federal service, authority over the Guard falls to the states’ governors. The Pentagon has no legal authority to dictate actions or discipline against state Guard members, the complaint states.
“This is not a case demanding a position of pro- or anti-vaccine, nor is it a case that challenges any aspect of the federal government’s authority over National Guardsmen once federal authority has been properly established,” the lawsuit states. Rather, the Constitution is clear about the National Guard’s dual role of service to the United States and as a state militia. When not in federal service, authority to command the National Guard rests with state governors.
In August 2021, the Secretary of Defense ordered all military members, including the Guard, to take COVID-19 shots. In November, the Secretary directed the Department of Defense to withhold salaries of unvaccinated, non-federalized, Guard members or deprive them of credit for drills and training.