Pentagon chief says Guard who refuse vaccine cannot train, draw pay
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says no member of the National Guard will be allowed to participate in drills or other training required to maintain their status in the Guard unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or are given an exemption.
Austin spelled out the policy in a memo to military service leaders.
“No credit or excused absence shall be afforded to members who do not participate in drills, training, or other duty due to failure to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Austin wrote, which would render any unvaccinated Guardsmen in breach of their contracts and make them eligible for dismissal from the National Guard.
Austin also said no federal pay will be provided to those Guard members who fail to comply with the vaccine mandate.
The policy is in line with Austin’s rejection Monday of a request by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that his Guard members not be required to get vaccinated.
Gov. Stitt has directed his adjutant general not to enforce any federal vaccine mandates when troops are in a state-controlled status.
According to Military Times, Oklahoma’s government and the Department of Defense have gone back and forth whether the DoD has the authority to enforce its mandate when troops are not federally mobilized, in a Title 10 status. The National Guard also operates under Title 32, which is a state-controlled federal activation where the governor is at the top of the chain of command.
However, units are using federal money to fund the activation at the behest of the president. If Oklahoma’s adjutant general directs his subordinates not to enforce the vaccine mandate, the Department of Defense still has the right to withhold drill pay. Additionally, military departments are able to discharge noncompliant Guardsmen outside of their local chains of command.