On Tuesday, The Pentagon formally dropped the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for troops. However, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a new memo that gives some discretion to commanders in whether and how to deploy troops who are not vaccinated.
On December 23rd, legislation was signed into law that gave him 30 days to rescind the mandate and since then, Austin’s memo has been widely anticipated. The Defense Department had stopped discharging troops who refused the shot and all other related personnel actions.
“The Department will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all service members,” said Austin in the memo. “Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force.”
Austin said commanders will have the authority to maintain a healthy force and unit readiness, however, other department policies, like other vaccine mandates are still in place. He said that includes “the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”
The contentious forced over 8,400 troops out of the military when they declined to get the vaccine because it was regarded as refusing to obey a lawful order.