Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), on Wednesday called for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to be fired if he does not repeal the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for troops.
“My amendment is simple. It would require the Secretary to repeal his COVID vaccine mandate within 30 days. And if he does not comply with that directive, his waiver to serve as Secretary of Defense would automatically be repealed,” Johnson told the House Armed Services Committee during a session to mark up the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes Pentagon spending and activities.
“There’s a lengthy list of things that have gone wrong. Undersecretary Austin’s tenure at the Department of Defense, perhaps not more damaging than the requirement that service members subject themselves to the COVID vaccine,” Johnson added.
Democrats voted down the amendment. They were joined by one Republican — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
Results of the military vaccine mandate:
Army cutting 12K positions
40% of males aged 18-24 ineligible to join the military
Only 58 religious exemptions out of 22K requests
— Rep. Mike Johnson (@RepMikeJohnson) June 22, 2022
Johnson detailed the detriment the vaccine mandate has caused the military, in terms of retention and recruitment.
He said out of 22,000 applications for a religious exemption to the vaccine, only 58 had been granted, citing numbers from May. Since then, only several dozens more have been granted, and lawmakers have obtained evidence they are only being granted to service members in the process of already leaving the military.
Johnson said that the vaccine mandate was also hurting the Army’s recruitment and retention of troops, with the Army asking to cut 12,000 soldiers from its 2023 fiscal budget:
Why? Because of the vaccine, more than 40% of males aged 18 to 24 have chosen not to become fully vaccinated in the U.S. and as a result, they are ineligible to join the military. So right off the bat 40% of the target demographic for military service is in fact eligible to serve now..
In my area of the country, the southeast region, where DoD recruits approximately 50% of its enlistments, over half of the male population has not gotten the vaccine. It’s not hard to see where all this is headed. The mandate is forcing qualified people out of the force, and it’s preventing qualified people from joining the force.
So far, the Pentagon has discharged more than 5,000 service members who have chosen not to be fully-vaccinated.