Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., told Newsmax Wednesday that President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination mandate, if not rescinded, could cost more than 25,000 National Guard troops to lose their jobs, and put the country at risk.
"I get the law-and-order argument and the order and discipline argument. When you tell them to charge the hill, they got to do it," Waltz, himself a 26-year veteran and National Guard member, said during "American Agenda" Wednesday. "But you also, as leaders, need to evaluate whether it's necessary to charge the hill, and the cost of charging the hill, and in this case, the guard stands to lose 25,000 guardsmen on top of following tens of thousands short for recruiting."
Waltz and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., sent a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Llyod Austin asking him to reconsider the mandate and its June 30 deadline for military members to have been vaccinated.
"Approximately 11% of the National Guard and Reserves remains unvaccinated. The reluctance and refusal from some of these servicemembers to not be vaccinated comes from their personal spiritual beliefs and concerns about a vaccine that was initially developed and approved under expedited emergency-use authorization," the letter said. "Some of these servicemembers have been previously exposed to COVID. Section 720 specifically asks the Department to consider whether this previous exposure induces sustained antibody protection, which may produce similar levels of immunity as the vaccine."
The congressmen said the mandate, and the potential loss of military personnel it could create, will "hinder" the ability to face challenges to American interests around the world.
"At a time when the Department is struggling to recruit qualified young men and women fit for duty to fill the ranks, and while China is embarking on a massive military buildup which threatens American interests around the world, we should not be hindering our own readiness and capabilities by punishing and forcing out experienced and dedicated Guardsmen and Reservists," they said in the letter. "Further, as a result of the June 30 deadline, unvaccinated Guardsmen and reservists are not authorized to participate in federal training and war games. Not only does this affect the service pay and retirement benefits of the individual servicemembers, it also negatively impacts the combat readiness of the units."
Waltz said the DOD is aware that it is in a bad situation if it loses that many troops, which could grow to 40-60,000 throughout the entire military, and understand the need to reconsider the mandate.
"I know that they're taking a hard look at it because they know they're really in a box on this one," Waltz said. "They know that they can't recruit and afford to train up and replace that many men and women in our National Guard. In some states, it's up to 30% [unvaccinated] as we head into wildfire season and hurricane season, they still have overseas deployment, and any kind of social unrest. They just can't do it."
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