Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Aug. 25 directed all military branches to ensure service members receive the vaccine as numbers surged over the summer. Each branch of the military observed a different deadline, with the Air Force and Navy required to comply by Nov. 2 and Nov. 28, respectively.
As Fox reported Wednesday, five state governors called on the Pentagon to rescind the vaccine mandate for National Guard members, but Abbott on Thursday sent a letter to Secretary Austin clearly stating he will not enforce the mandate on his state’s service members.
FILE – In this March 16, 2020, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
“As Governor of Texas, I am the commander-in-chief of this State’s militia,” reads the letter. “In that capacity, on October 4, 2021, I ordered the Adjutant General of Texas to comply with my Executive Order GA-39.”
“If unvaccinated guardsmen suffer any adverse consequences within the State of Texas, they will have only President Biden and his Administration to blame,” Abbott said. “The State of Texas will not enforce this latest COVID-19 vaccine mandate against its guardsmen. If the federal government keeps threatening to defund the Texas National Guard, I will deploy every legal tool available to me as Governor in defense of these American heroes.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at a Senate Armed Services budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Secretary Austin had recently threatened to cut off federal funding for unvaccinated guardsmen should states not comply, but Abbott remains undaunted in his stance.
Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska hold similar stances but so far have requested that the Pentagon rescind the order rather than force the governors to make a difficult decision.
KIN, JAPAN – APRIL 28: A United States Marine prepares to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Hansen on April 28, 2021 in Kin, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
“We acknowledge your right to establish readiness standards for the National Guard for activation into a Title 10 status,” the letter from the governors said. “However, directives dictating whether training in a Title 32 status can occur, setting punishment requirements for refusing to be COVID-19 vaccinated, and requiring separation from each state National Guard if unvaccinated are beyond your constitutional and statutory authority.”
The Army announced that as of its Dec. 15 deadline 96% of active-duty soldiers have received a full vaccination regimen against COVID-19, with that figure to rise to 98% after remaining soldiers receive their second shot. Less than 1% of the roughly half-million soldiers have outright refused the order.
Soldiers who refuse the order to be vaccinated without an approved or pending exemption request may be subject to adverse administrative action, including involuntary separation.