EXCLUSIVE: GOP Reps Rip Army’s ‘Galling’ Decision Not To Repeal Vaccine Mandate For National Guard, Reserves

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • Congress clearly intended the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to repeal the vaccine mandate for the entire military, including the National Guard and reserves, Republican lawmakers told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 
  • New Army guidance appears to enforce the vaccine mandate for National Guard and reserve personnel.
  • “This just smells of bureaucrats and a Secretary of Defense who disagrees with the policy trying to trying to parse words,” Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz told the DCNF.

The Army’s recent guidance enforcing the vaccine requirement for National Guard and reserve troops is “galling” and contradicts Congress’ intent in repealing the mandate, Republican lawmakers told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A recently-issued update to the Army’s COVID-19 protocol appears to state that the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which overturned the Department of Defense’s (DOD) vaccination requirement, does not apply to the National Guard and reserves. However, Republican members of Congress who fought to include the mandate repeal in this year’s defense bill reaffirmed the GOP’s intention to strike down the order for all members of the military in exclusive comments to the DCNF.

“The will and intent of Congress was clear,” Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz told the DCNF in an interview. “To try to parse out the National Guard from the rest of the military is galling. It’s offensive.” (RELATED: Congress Won’t Reinstate The Thousands Of Troops Discharged For Violating The COVID Vaccine Mandate)

In the end, GOP lawmakers attached a last-minute amendment instructing DOD to back off from the vaccine requirement to the NDAA. President Joe Biden signed the bill into effect on Dec. 23.

This year’s NDAA was clear: the COVID-19 vaccine mandate must be repealed for all servicemembers — including members of the [r]eserves and National Guard,” Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin told the DCNF.

Waltz, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, helped lead an effort to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, urging Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to loosen his stance in an August letter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had in the summer of 2022 lightened recommendations for halting the spread of COVID-19, the congress members noted in the letter. In addition, up to 14,000 National Guard personnel could lose their jobs even as the Army struggles to recruit enough soldiers, gutting the force and damaging its ability to meet America’s defense needs.

However, Army guidance issued Thursday says the provision does not address a second memo from November applying the mandate to the National Guard and reserves and preventing unvaccinated members mobilized under state, rather than federal, orders from being paid, the documents show. 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-on instructions from November.

“This just smells of bureaucrats and a Secretary of Defense who disagrees with the policy trying to trying to parse words,” Waltz told the DCNF. “That was the agreed upon language that went into the NDAA that Congress — the elected Congress, not the appointed members of the Pentagon — voted on.”

Members of the Armed Services Committee are working with the secretary of the Army to “sort this out,” he added. 

Independent experts agreed the Army should have interpreted Congress’ mandate as intended, calling the Army’s rebuttal of the law “head-scratching.”

“The Army is incorrect. The NDAA’s repeal of the vaccine mandate supersedes any and all DoD directives to the contrary,” Dwight Stirling, founder and CEO of the Center for Law and Military Policy, told the DCNF.

“It is a fundamental principle of Constitutional law that laws passed by Congress take precedence over orders issued by executive departments. This is not a complicated issue,” Stirling added.

The Army did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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