The Pentagon said in a recent letter to lawmakers that it could kick out as many as 16,000 unvaccinated troops, despite its coronavirus vaccine mandate no longer being in effect.
The letter, from the Under Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Gilbert Cisneros, said that despite the mandate no longer being in effect, military officials “continue to review cases on an individual basis to determine appropriate action” for troops who did not get vaccinated and did not request an exemption.
That would apply to approximately 16,000 unvaccinated troops, according to the letter, which revealed that approximately 69,000 troops remained unvaccinated, but 53,000 requested some kind of exemption, either religious, medical, or administrative.
The remaining 16,000 could still be subject to separation, according to the Pentagon — despite Republicans forcing the administration to rescind the mandate late last year via the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) slammed the Pentagon’s policy to punish troops who did not apply for an exemption.
“It’s incredibly divisive and cruel to fire patriotic service members for refusing to comply with a partisan and harmful rule that no longer exists. To me, the only explanation is that the Biden administration wants to purge conservative service members from the military,” Banks said.
During a recent hearing, Banks questioned Cisneros on the point of punishing service members over a mandate that is no longer in effect. Cisneros said it was because the mandate was a “lawful order” at the time it was made and that troops who remained unvaccinated but did not seek an exemption “disobeyed a lawful order.”
“Those who refused the vaccine and did not put in a request for an accommodation refused a lawful order,” Cisneros replied.
Banks pressed him on what the point was of enforcing a rescinded mandate.
Cisneros said, “In order to maintain good order and discipline, it’s very important that our service members follow orders when they are lawful.”
However, the DOD has never publicly answered questions as to whether or not the vaccine mandate was lawful.
As Breitbart News previously reported, the DOD can only mandate a vaccine approved for emergency use authorization if the defense secretary requests and receives a waiver from the president. Instead, then-civilian defense official Terry Adirim wrote a memo claiming the EUA-vaccine and FDA-approved vaccine were “interchangeable.”
The DOD has dodged whether or not Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requested and received a waiver from President Joe Biden.
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