In a recently released White House statement, the Biden administration has indicated that American service members who do not comply with the military’s newly introduced COVID-19 vaccine mandate should face the possibility of dishonorable discharge.
Specifically, the White House has resoundingly rejected a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 716, which would have prohibited the Pentagon from punishing a service member who declines to receive the vaccine with dishonorable discharge.
“The [Biden administration] strongly opposes section 716,” the White House statement proclaimed, claiming that the section would limit the ability of a commander to ready operations and enforce “discipline” and “good order” when service members refuse “to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccine.”
In order to ensure “a uniformed fight with discipline,” then “commanders must have the ability to give orders,” as well as “take appropriate disciplinary measures,” the White House continued.
Section 716 had originally been introduced by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) during the markup phase of the bill. The section was designed to ensure that service members who refused to comply with the vaccine mandate would receive only honorable discharge, especially since several Americans remain concerned about a vaccine that has only been available for under a year.
Consequently, Section 716 aimed to ensure that service members who did not receive the vaccine would be assured of receiving honorable discharge, given that any other alternative would “[denote] a dereliction of duty or a failure to serve the United States and its people to the best of the ability of an individual.”
In the past month, the executive branch abruptly released a major directive that required all American service members to receive the COVID vaccine. When the directive was released, over 800,000 service members had not yet received a single dose of the vaccine, per data provided by the Pentagon.
The sudden mandate drew immediate controversy from several conservative legislators, as well as members of the military. However, the Pentagon has since claimed that the mandate comprises a “lawful order” that will have to be followed.
In commentary to the Daily Mail, Green remarked that he felt “appalled” by the Biden administration’s blanket opposition to Section 716, noting that the section was “bipartisan” in nature, with “every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee [agreeing] to it.”
In addition, the media outlet also reviewed earlier remarks from Green, namely when he claimed that any American “who raises their hand to serve our Nation” should never face punishment over “making a highly personal medical decision.”
For the most part, Republicans have largely opposed Biden’s efforts to mandate COVID vaccines amongst service members, as well as federal employees. In another recent, also abrupt, directive, the Biden administration also called for vaccine mandates in companies that have over 100 employees.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) also informed the Daily Mail that the nation’s “ability to take on the enemy” is being dramatically “undermined by forcing young people … to have the vaccine,” particularly when young people are “perfectly healthy” and more than equipped “to fend off COVID.”
Alongside its opposition to Section 716, the Biden administration has also recently declared its opposition to other provisions in the NDAA, including Section 720, a provision that would exempt U.S. service members from the COVID vaccine mandate if they have been previously infected with COVID.
The White House proclaimed that its opposition is based on the fact that Section 720 would allegedly “create a new and overly broad exemption from the vaccine [mandate],” which “would undermine the effectiveness of the requirement.”
However, this statement runs in opposition to “the science,” which suggests that natural immunity to COVID, which results from prior infection, offers equivalent, if not better, protection from the virus relative to the vaccine.