COVID mandate repeal is a huge victory for servicemen

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, December 13, 2022

At the eleventh hour, Congress has finally unveiled the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the vehicle for funding authorization of the U.S. military and Department of Defense (DoD) initiatives. The passage of this bill will bolster our nation’s security and directly benefit our Defense programs at the Pentagon, Energy Department, and other agencies in the research communities.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, my focus is to ensure our men and women in uniform and their families have the resources and training necessary to defend our nation. This year, I was honored to lead the fight protecting our servicemembers from termination under President Biden’s COVID shot mandate, and I am pleased language reflecting my efforts has been included in the final defense bill. Not only is this a massive win for the brave Americans who have devoted themselves to serving our nation, but it’s also a vital step in restoring U.S. public opinion of the military.
In a Reagan Institute annual survey released last month, only 48% of participants expressed “a great deal” of confidence in the U.S. military, a significant drop from 70% in November 2018. It comes as no surprise that over half credited the politicization of military leaders as the top reason for their decreased confidence.
Despite this, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a rare appearance to inform the American people that he believes we should keep the COVID vaccine mandate in place. Bear in mind: this is coming from the same guy who helped coordinate the United States’ disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal and demands servicemembers spend valuable manhours on diversity and inclusion training.
Secretary Austin claims he has “not seen any hard data that directly links the COVID mandate to an effect on our recruiting,” but you would have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the effects these mandates have on recruiting. Every branch of the U.S. military struggled to hit its recruitment goals this year, including the U.S. Army, which fell 15,000 soldiers short. This kind of deficit doesn’t simply happen overnight but results from an overwhelming wariness to join the military. In October, Army Secretary Wormuth disclosed that only 9% of young Americans are interested in joining the military, the lowest since 2007. Meanwhile, the Defense Department has dismissed approximately 3,700 Marines, 1,800 soldiers, 2,000 sailors, and 900 airmen over their choice not to receive the COVID shot.
For nearly three years, Democrats have used the COVID pandemic to control the American people in every aspect of their lives, and the U.S. military has been no exception. Firing our servicemembers over the COVID vaccine has got to stop. Politics has no place within the walls of the DoD. It’s time to get back to maintaining a strong military and showing the rest of the world that the United States of America is serious about our security and continued freedom.
(Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)

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