Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Pentagon immunization standoff escalates

WASHINGTON – A standoff between the governor of Oklahoma and the Pentagon over a coronavirus vaccine mandate for troops has turned into ...

WASHINGTON – A standoff between the governor of Oklahoma and the Pentagon over a coronavirus vaccine mandate for troops has turned into a stormy test of federal power, as President Biden prepares to demand vaccinations for a large part of the American workforce.

Last week, the newly appointed Oklahoma Adjutant General for the National Guard, Brig. General Thomas H. Mancino, announced on behalf of Governor Kevin Stitt that state guards would not be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, defying a Pentagon directive issued in August that makes vaccinations compulsory for all troops, including the National Guard, within the time limits set by each branch of service.

“The order I issued came directly from the governor. This is the legal order for the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard, ”General Mancino said in an interview, adding that he had been vaccinated.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that failure to meet “valid medical readiness requirements” could “endanger” the status of troops.

Officials insist that Mr Stitt does not have the legal capacity to evade the warrant, although experts on the obscure laws governing the Guard disagree. They note that unless deployed federally, members of the National Guard are under the jurisdiction of their state governor and therefore are not subject to federal mandates. “Members of the Guard can only serve one boss at a time,” said John Goheen, spokesperson for the United States National Guard Association.

The Pentagon is not without recourse. This could deny funding for state units or hamper promotions for members of the Guard who refuse to be vaccinated. Officials said on Wednesday that members of the Guard who refused to be vaccinated could also be sacked, as could active-duty troops.

“Oklahoma may be able to take this legal step, but there are certainly things the federal government can do in response that could make this a painful Pyrrhic victory,” said Eugene Fidell, assistant professor. of Law at New York University. Faculty of Law. “The governor and the adjutant general of the state could thus find themselves in command of a very unhappy staff. “

The Pentagon is preparing for other states to follow Oklahoma’s lead. So far none have done so, but many are believed to be closely monitoring the situation, which could lead to legal action. “It could be contagious,” Mr. Fidell said.

National Guard troops have been caught in political sights over the years, including in 2018, when several governors said they would detain or recall their troops from the border with Mexico as the Trump administration separated adults who entered the United States illegally from their children. In 1986, several governors reluctant to send Guard troops for maneuvers in Honduras ordered by President Ronald Reagan.

But these rare conflicts in the military have never focused on vaccine mandates, which have been around for decades.

The standoff, though limited so far, demonstrates the headaches Mr. Biden faces as he pushes back the Jan. 4 deadline for large companies to coronavirus vaccination mandate or start weekly testing of their workers. The new rule, applying to companies with 100 or more employees, would cover around 84 million workers and is already meeting fierce resistance.

Mr. Stitt is one of many Republican state officials who have resisted Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandates covering federal employees and contractors.

Some governors who have been more resistant to terms of office have so far refused to join Mr Stitt.

“I have taken an oath and intend to do what I promised the country I would do,” Georgia National Guard chief General Thomas Carden told a local reporter last week. . “It’s cut and dry for us.”

Spokesmen for the guards in North Dakota and Florida – two other states whose governors oppose vaccination warrants – said they were following the Pentagon’s order, while officials in Texas were more vague .

“The decision to get vaccinated or not is a personal matter that every soldier and airman must weigh. The Texas National Guard provides the necessary resources for every member of the service to make informed decisions, ”an unidentified spokesperson said in response to an email request.

While the vast majority of active duty troops have been vaccinated, the percentage of those in the Guard has lagged below the civilian population averages. In Oklahoma, 89% of Guard Airmen have been vaccinated, while only 40% of Army Guards have been vaccinated.

General Mancino released his memo a day after Mr Stitt fired his predecessor, Major General Michael C. Thompson, a vaccine supporter. General Thompson told the New York Times that the governor had given no explanation and that his dismissal was “political”.

“There is no other reason for this,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Pentagon immunization standoff escalates
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Pentagon immunization standoff escalates
Newsrust - US Top News
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