Dear Secretary Austin:
As you know, Section 720 of the FY22 National Defense Authorization (PL 117-81) requires the Department of Defense to establish uniform procedures under which servicemembers may be exempted from the Department's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. To date, we have not seen such guidance and are past Secretary Lloyd Austin's arbitrary June 30th deadline for members of the National Guard and Reserve to be vaccinated, or be subject to penalties, including separation from service.
Approximately 11% of the National Guard and Reserves remains unvaccinated. The reluctance and refusal from some of these servicemembers to not be vaccinated comes from their personal spiritual beliefs and concerns about a vaccine that was initially developed and approved under expedited emergency-use authorization.
Some of these servicemembers have been previously exposed to COVID. Section 720 specifically asks the Department to consider whether this previous exposure induces sustained antibody protection, which may produce similar levels of immunity as the vaccine.
At a time when the Department is struggling to recruit qualified young men and women fit for duty to fill the ranks, and while China is embarking on a massive military buildup which threatens American interests around the world, we should not be hindering our own readiness and capabilities by punishing and forcing out experienced and dedicated Guardsmen and Reservists.
Further, as a result of the June 30 deadline, unvaccinated Guardsmen and reservists are not authorized to participate in federal training and war games. Not only does this affect the service pay and retirement benefits of the individual servicemembers, it also negatively impacts the combat readiness of the units.
As a matter of national security, the capabilities and readiness of the fighting force, and respect for the personal rights of our men and women in uniform, we ask that you reconsider the Department's COVID vaccine mandate and issue uniform guidance that considers natural immunity.