United States Defense Secretary Lloyd has officially issued a memorandum ending the requirement for military members to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This memorandum also establishes that members will not be discharged if they continue to refuse the vaccine. However, it stops short of allowing a clear path for already discharged members to rejoin the service. Here is the memo:
The National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Biden, included a provision to cull the separation of troops and the requirement altogether, as all services except the Marine Corps struggle to meet recruiting numbers. However, a last ditch attempt to allow service members to rejoin with back pay, was defeated in the Senate. The major argument behind the mostly Democrat-led defeat was that military members must follow orders and cannot lobby Congress to save them, otherwise orders are merely suggestions, so said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I.
About 8,400 members were kicked out since the vaccine mandate went into effect in 2020, exacerbating the recruiting crisis. The Army missed its recruitment goal for fiscal 2022 by 25% or 15,000 soldiers, while the Navy and Air Force barely made their quotas.
While some military leaders such as Marine Corps Commandant Berger point to a strong job market for the troop-recruit disconnect, some U.S. officials such as Lt.Col Scheller maintain the U.S. military is coming out of an unpopular war that met a disastrous end in Kabul in 2021. As generation Z, the youngest of them being 11 years old today, grapples with the decision to enlist or commission, the humiliation of the United States military in its retreat from Afghanistan must not be discounted. There is also the obvious point that a large percentage of American youth are not medically qualified due to obesity and drug use to join the military, not to mention the sagging levels of patriotism which fuels the recruit pool.
Overall, it is clear that Congress’ decision to include the provision in this year’s NDAA was not one of values, but of necessity. The unpopular requirements and separation of members presented sharp blowback through multiple lawsuits, most notably from the U.S. SOF community which garnered injunction from a federal judge last year when three dozen U.S. Navy SEALs filed suit over punishment concerning their unwillingness to get the vaccine. This, coupled with the military’s inability to meet recruiting numbers has many looking for ways to open up the recruit pool.