Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has, under pressure from Congress, finally rescinded his Aug. 24, 2021 memorandum mandating that members of the Armed Forces under Department of Defense authority be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also rescinded the memorandum of Nov. 30, 2021, which attempted to force the vaccination of National Guard and Reserve personnel. That matter is in litigation as Republican governors have pushed back on Austin’s authority over National Guard and Reserves.
Austin is acting due to the requirement established by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 23.
“The health and readiness of the Force are crucial to the Department’s ability to defend our nation. Secretary Austin continues to encourage all Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to ensure Total Force readiness,” his press release said.
The memo gives commanders discretion about whether to deploy military personnel who are not vaccinated for Covid.
Mandates for other vaccines are unchanged, he said, as is “the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”
Already, the military has lost more than 8,400 men and women who refused the Covid vaccination since Austin gave the order in August of 2021 to require all under his command to take the experimental vaccine. Many were separated for refusing to obey his order.
Those who were released have reportedly received honorable discharges or general discharges under honorable conditions.
Austin wrote that those who were discharged can petition their military service branch to ask for a change in the “characterization of their discharge” in their records, but he didn’t indicate what changes would be made.
Austin is the 28th secretary of Defense and serves on the National Security Council.
The full rescission memorandum can be found here.