Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged the defense secretary to suspend the Pentagon’s “politically motivated” vaccine mandate for troops, saying it was hurting military readiness and morale.
“I write today to express my grave concerns about this administration’s imposition of COVID vaccine mandates on the uniformed and civilian workforces, at the expense of readiness and morale,” he wrote in a letter for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“This haphazardly implemented and politically motivated vaccine mandate must be immediately suspended or risk irrevocable damage to our national security reminiscent of sequestration,” he said, referring to defense cuts that happened during the Obama administration.
He added that at a time when adversaries continue to improve their advantage against U.S. forces, no policy should hinder military readiness. He noted that “tens of thousands of service members” have yet to comply with the vaccine mandate order.
“The ambiguity of the various policies combined with unrealistic timelines and processes for granting exemptions will ensure that tens of thousands of personnel are unable to comply,” he said.
He also said that the Pentagon’s responses to questions from the committee have been “unsatisfactory.”
“The lack of strategic foresight in the implementation of the COVID vaccination mandate is inexcusable,” he said.
Inhofe also slammed separation from the military as a punishment for not complying with the vaccine mandate.
“Plainly stated, no service member, Department of Defense civilian or contractor supporting the Department should be dismissed due to failure to comply with the mandate until the ramifications of mass dismissal are known,” he said.
“With an ever shrinking candidate pool, hastily executed policies such as this work to further diminish the ability of the Department to tap into the finite resource of people critical to national security,” he added.
He asked the Pentagon to respond to his questions by November 1, 2021, on the costs of discharging those who do not comply with the mandate, and what the processes are for those seeking exemptions and the criteria by which they are being adjudicated and how the appeal process works, as well as other concerns.
Recently, the military’s archbishop said that the Catholic Church deeming the vaccine morally permissible did not preclude the possibility of a service member still feeling that it would violate his or her conscience.
“This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine’s moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience. It does not,” Archbishop for the Military Services, USA Reverend Timothy P. Broglio said last week.