Officials told Fox News that Austin would make his recommendation to the White House and ask a waiver from Biden on Aug. 5. His announcement and formal guidance to the Department of Defense (DoD) would follow the next day, they added.
A week earlier, Biden gave the go signal for the DoD to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for service members. According to a Military.com report, he asked the Pentagon to examine how and when to require COVID-19 vaccines. "Since many vaccinations are required for active-duty military [personnel] today, I'm asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 [vaccines] to the list of vaccinations our armed forces must get," Biden said on July 29.
The president defended his decision to mandate vaccines by saying troops are often deployed to places with low vaccination rates and high COVID-19 cases. Biden said: "Our men and women in uniform, who protect this country against grave threats, should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19."
Biden also asked the Department of Justice (DoJ) to look into the legality of requiring COVID-19 vaccines granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The DoD earlier said that COVID-19 vaccines under EUA would not be mandatory until the FDA grants them full approval. However, DoJ officials said a vaccine mandate would require a presidential waiver – which Austin would request.
Earlier, Biden announced that federal employees and on-site contractors would be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo regular COVID-19 testing. The mandate applied to the Pentagon's civilian employees – but did not extend to active-duty service members. (Related: Biden mulls requiring all military forces to receive coronavirus vaccine.)
Austin's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate gave a reason for a number of troops to leave the armed forces. Back in July 2021, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said some service members told him they would quit if COVID-19 vaccines were mandated. However, the actual number of troops who quit or planned to do so remained unknown.
Massie tweeted: "I've been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the [COVID-19] vaccine is mandated. I introduced HR3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the [U.S. Armed Forces] receive a vaccination against COVID-19." He added that his proposed bill already had 24 sponsors at the time of his tweet. (Related: Members of the military plan to RESIGN if coronavirus vaccines are mandated.)
Massie referenced a directive made public by the Army Times, which ordered commanders to prepare for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations by September 2021. "Commanders will continue COVID-19 vaccination operations and prepare for a directive to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for service members [on or around] Sept. 1, 2021, pending full FDA licensure," the directive said. It added that commanders must "provide a backbrief on service member vaccination status and way ahead for completion once the vaccine is mandated."
The DoD did not respond to a request for comment. Army spokesman Maj. Jackie Wren meanwhile told the Army Times: "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on leaked documents. The vaccine continues to be voluntary. If we are directed by the DoD to change our posture, we are prepared to do so."
According to the Army Times, it was not immediately clear whether the COVID-19 vaccines would receive full approval in time for Sept. 1. However, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin's vaccination mandate would depend on the waiver issued by Biden. "The way the process works is [Austin] would have to request a waiver from the president … to waive the [EUA] as the justification for making it involuntary," he explained.
MedicalTyranny.com has more articles about mandatory COVID-19 inoculation in the armed forces.