Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Pentagon Standoff Over Vaccine Intensifies

The standoff between Oklahoma’s governor and the Pentagon over mandating a coronavirus vaccine for troops has turned into a stormy test of federal authority, as President Biden moves to order vaccinations for a broad swath of the American workforce.

Last week, he named a new assistant general to the Oklahoma National Guard, Brig. General Thomas H. Mancino, on behalf of Governor Kevin State, announced that state guards will not be required to get a Covid-19 vaccine, in defiance of an August Pentagon directive that makes vaccinations mandatory for all troops, including the National Guard on schedule. service branch.

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 has been vaccinated.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that failure to follow “correct medical preparedness requirements” could “threaten” the status of troops.

Officials insist Mr. State has no legal standing to evade the mandate, although experts differ on the vague laws governing the guard. They noted that unless they are federally deployed, members of the National Guard are under the authority of their state’s governor, and therefore not subject to federal mandates. “People of the Guard can only serve one president at a time,” said John Gohen, a Defense Department spokesman. United States National Guard Association.

The Pentagon is not without fairness. He may refuse to fund state units or hinder the promotions of guards who refuse to be vaccinated. Officials said Wednesday that guardsmen who refused to be vaccinated could also face dismissal, just as with active duty forces.

said Eugene Fidel, associate professor of law at New York University School of Law. Thus the Governor and Associate General of the State may find themselves leading some very dissatisfied individuals.

The Pentagon is preparing for other countries to follow Oklahoma’s lead. So far none of it has happened, but it is believed that many are closely watching the situation, which could become the subject of lawsuits. “This can be contagious,” said Mr. Fidel.

National Guard forces have been embroiled in political spat over the years, including in 2018, when several state governors said they would withhold or withdraw their forces from the border with Mexico as the Trump administration dismissed adults who had illegally crossed into the United States from their country. children. In 1986, several state governors refrained from sending guards to maneuvers in Honduras by order of President Ronald Reagan.

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

The standoff, while limited in scope so far, illustrates the headache Biden faces as he pushes the January 4 deadline for large companies to impose coronavirus vaccinations or begin weekly testing of their workers. The new rule, which applies to companies with 100 or more employees, will cover nearly 84 million workers, and is already facing fierce resistance.

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

Some of the governors who had been more resistant to the states hitherto refused to join Mr. State.

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

Revolutionary Guard spokesmen in North Dakota and Florida — two other states whose governors oppose vaccine mandates — said they were following the Pentagon’s order, while officials in Texas were more ambiguous.

“The decision to receive a vaccination or not is a personal matter that every soldier and pilot must weigh. The Texas National Guard provides the resources necessary for every service member to make informed decisions,” a Texas National Guard spokesperson said in response to an email inquiry.

While the vast majority of the serving troops were vaccinated, the percentage of guard personnel fell well below civilian population rates. In Oklahoma, 89 percent of guard pilots have been vaccinated, while only 40 percent of Army rangers have been shot.

General Mancino issued his memo a day after Mr. Steat fired his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Michael C. Thompson, a vaccine advocate.

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