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Abbott joins 6 different GOP governors in asserting Pentagon has no authority to punish unvaccinated National Guardsmen

In a Thursday letter to Austin, Abbott wrote that the commander of the Texas National Guard — below the governor’s govt order — “will not punish any guardsmen” for not getting vaccinated, including that it was “unconscionable” that the army would threaten to withhold federal {dollars} for unvaccinated members of the guard or discharge service members from the unit.

The Texas governor is simply the newest to hitch an effort to overturn or retract the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate that started with Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma in early November. But the efforts are more likely to be rebuffed by Austin, who rejected the sooner try.

Earlier this week, the 5 Republican governors of Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska made an argument much like Abbott’s, insisting the Pentagon doesn’t have the authority to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for state National Guard models.

The governors asserted in their very own letter to Austin that punishing or discharging Guard members and barring them from coaching whereas they function below state-level orders are “beyond the constitutional and statutory authority” of the Pentagon.

A spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense acknowledged receipt of the letters and stated a response can be forthcoming.

All of the state leaders have pointed to the identical situation: the governor is the commander in chief of a state National Guard unit when it’s working below state orders, generally known as Title 32.

Stitt tried to make the case for a vaccine exemption for his state’s Army and Air National Guard unit final month when he ordered the commander to not implement the vaccine mandate.

But Austin denied that request, even when the Guard operates below Title 32 orders.

“The immediate vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential military readiness requirement for all components and units of the military, including the Oklahoma National Guard,” Austin wrote in response to Stitt.

A day later, Austin issued a memo warning that no Defense Department cash would go to guardsmen who had not been vaccinated, and unvaccinated guardsmen wouldn’t be capable to take part in coaching or be given excused absences.

The federal authorities funds National Guard models below federal orders, referred to as Title 10, and the Title 32 state orders. In addition, National Guard members should meet federal army readiness necessities, together with medical necessities, within the occasion that they should deploy or be referred to as up below federal orders.

Unvaccinated guardsmen can stay members of state militias or protection forces, which roughly 20 states and territories preserve. But, in the event that they proceed to refuse to get vaccinated in opposition to Covid-19, the Pentagon has repeatedly warned that they could not be capable to serve in a state National Guard unit.

The debate over vaccines inside the army — and significantly inside the National Guard — has thrust the Pentagon into partisan politics.

The army has vaccinated greater than 97% of the lively obligation power, however that also leaves roughly 36,000 unvaccinated service members who may face discharge. The deadline for National Guard vaccination is the top of June.

Some National Guard models have a far decrease vaccination price, as Republican governors use the army vaccine mandate as a political cudgel to assault the Biden administration.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby dismissed the makes an attempt to politicize the vaccine.

“While it may be a political issue in society, it’s not a political issue here in the United States military,” Kirby stated at a press briefing Thursday. “It is a valid military medical requirement, and it is a lawful order to accept the vaccine, to take the vaccine, and that’s how we’re looking at this. We’re looking at this from the science, and we’re looking at it from the readiness perspective.”

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