Biden directs Pentagon to figure out ‘how and when’ to require COVID vaccine for the military

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NO MORE MR. NICE GUY: The days of police pleading and cajoling are coming to an end. In announcing new vaccine rules for federal workers, President Joe Biden said he wants to require all members of the military to roll up their sleeves and get a vaccine to stem the spread of the new delta variant of the coronavirus.

“Since many vaccinations are required for active-duty military today, I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations our armed forces must get,” Biden said. “Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19. I think this is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world, many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent.”

“The vaccines are safe, highly effective. There’s nothing political about them,” Biden said. “I know people talk about freedom. But I learned, growing up at school and from my parents, with freedom comes responsibility. Your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else.”

PENTAGON MARCHING TOWARD MANDATE: Last night, the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would salute smartly and figure out the best protocol for mandating the vaccine that until now has been voluntary because it lacks full FDA approval.

“Secretary Austin will also begin consulting our medical professionals, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to determine how and when to make recommendations to the president with respect to adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the full list of requirements for military personnel,” said Jamal Brown, deputy Pentagon press secretary, in a statement.

Under the voluntary rules, only 70% of the force has received at least one shot, with 30% refusing the vaccine. “COVID-19 remains a significant and evolving threat to our nation’s security,” said Brown. “The rise of the Delta variant and the speed with which it transmits make these additional protective efforts all the more vital to protecting our force and the nation we defend.”

Austin is traveling in Vietnam, where press secretary John Kirby was asked about the prospect of mandatory vaccines. “Right now, the vaccine remains voluntary,” Kirby replied, “but as I said many times, you know, we're certainly watching the approval process, and the secretary has never been about closing down options with respect to the proper vaccination of the force.”

NO ‘VACCINE PASSPORT’: The latest DOD guidance makes no mention of requiring proof of vaccination, but all civilians and military workers at the Pentagon will be expected to truthfully report whether they have been vaccinated or not.

“All military and civilian DOD personnel will be asked to attest to their vaccination status,” Brown said, which indicated the department will be relying on the honor system. “Personnel unable or unwilling to do that will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions.”


Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: In an early morning announcement, President Joe Biden welcomed the first group of Afghans and their families evacuated to the United States under Operation Allies Refuge.

The initial group numbered more than 200, including scores of children and babies, who arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington this morning to begin their new lives in America. The refugees who worked with U.S. forces, often as translators and interpreters, will be processed at Fort Lee, Virginia, as they complete the final steps for their Special Immigrant Visas.

“These first Afghans are able to come directly to the United States because they have already completed extensive background checks and security screening by the Intelligence Community and the Departments of State and Homeland Security,” Biden said in a statement. “Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan.”

“These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate SIV-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way — to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries — so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications.”

“These brave men and women, at great risk to themselves and their families, served alongside U.S. and coalition forces and diplomats to support our operations and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism that threatens our homeland,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement. “We have spoken many times about the moral obligation we have to help those who have helped us, and we are fully committed to working closely with our interagency partners to meet that obligation.”


ALSO TODAY: Late this afternoon, President Joe Biden hosts Cuban American leaders at the White House to discuss the U.S. response to the recent anti-government demonstrations in Cuba.

READY FOR BIDEN’S SIGNATURE: With just two days before funding would have run out, Congress has passed and sent to the president’s desk a $2.1 billion emergency security supplemental bill that will reimburse the National Guard, the U.S. Capitol Police, and other law enforcement for costs incurred responding to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

The bill also increases the number of Special Immigrant Visas available for Afghans to relocate to the U.S. along with $100 million for Afghan refugee assistance. It passed the Senate yesterday 98-0, and the House 416-11.

“Without this funding, the National Guard would be forced to cut training — a blow to readiness when we can least afford it,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “I am especially pleased this legislation blocks funds for a permanent fence around the Capitol.”

“Earlier this month, I urged Speaker Pelosi to cancel August recess if the needs of the National Guard were not met,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “I am glad that we came to our senses and finally addressed this issue before it was too late. We should never again use the men and women of the National Guard in security theater.”


ARSON ALLEGED IN BONHOMME RICHARD FIRE: The Navy has charged an unidentified sailor with deliberately setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last year.

The fire raged for days while the ship was docked pierside in San Diego, and the amphibious assault ship was eventually declared a $4 billion dollar loss.

The sailor, who was a member of the crew, was charged with aggravated arson and the willful hazarding of a vessel.

"On July 29, charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice were brought forth against a Navy Sailor in response to evidence found during the criminal investigation into the fire started on USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) on July 12, 2020,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, spokesman for the U.S. 3rd Fleet, said in a statement.


US ACCUSES CHINA OF PRESS INTIMIDATION: The U.S. is accusing China of conducting a campaign of “harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation” of U.S. and other foreign journalists.

“The PRC government claims to welcome foreign media and support their work, but its actions tell a different story,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement. “It’s harsh rhetoric, promoted through official state media, toward any news it perceives to be critical of PRC policies, has provoked negative public sentiment leading to tense, in-person confrontations and harassment, including online verbal abuse and death threats of journalists simply doing their jobs.”

“We call on the PRC to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Price said.

INDUSTRY WATCH: Northrop Grumman Corporation released its second-quarter 2021 financial results yesterday, reporting a 3% increase in both sales and earnings. Sales increased from $8.9 billion to $9.2 billion compared to last year’s second quarter, and net earnings rose to $1.04 billion.

“CEO Kathy Warden said the company’s prospects are rosy given strong support in Congress for not only a higher defense spending plan than the one requested, but also for Northrop Grumman’s programs, specifically,” according to Air Force Magazine.

REMEMBERING CARL LEVIN: Former Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who served 36 years in the Senate, has died at 87.

He is remembered fondly by his colleagues, including current Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed.

“He was one of the most productive, effective Congressional investigators and legislators of his era, wielding his gavels on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations with great clout and distinction,” Reed said in a statement. “You did not want to be on the wrong side of Chairman Levin, getting stared down at the end of those gravity-defying glasses that he somehow managed to keep perched atop the very tip of his nose.”

“He was relentless in going after waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption whenever and wherever he saw it. He didn’t shy from tough issues. He led the inquiry into torture of detainees in U.S. military custody and made our country stronger by exposing where we fell short of upholding our own values,” Reed said. “In times of war and peace, his contributions as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee continue to make our nation stronger and protect Americans from harm.”


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The Drive: British And Chinese Aircraft Carriers Both Underway In The Tense South China Sea

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Reuters: Philippines’ Duterte Fully Restores Key U.S. Troop Pact

Air Force Times: Biden to Pick Aerospace Industry Executive Alex Wagner as Air Force Personnel Boss

Marine Corps Times: Families Of Service Members Killed In 2020 Marine Corps AAV Accident Sue Manufacturer

Foreign Affairs: China’s Sputnik Moment? How Washington Boosted Beijing’s Quest for Tech Dominance

PBS NewsHour: Gen. Brown on Extremism in the Air Force and Threats from China, Afghanistan Is Russia Building a New Aircraft Carrier-Based Stealth Fighter? China Is Training for War in the South China Sea (And to Invade Taiwan?)



8:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual 11th annual South China Sea Conference, with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.; Zack Cooper, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Nguyen Nam Duong, deputy director-general of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam's East Sea Institute.


8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 1, with Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Zalmay Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation; retired Gen. David Petraeus, former director, Central Intelligence Agency; Roya Rahmani, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.; Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; and more. See full agenda and register at

9:15 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum: “The SASC version of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, particularly its implications for the Space Force, with South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, and Matt Donovan, director of the Mitchell Institute Spacepower Advantage Research Center. Video posted afterward at

12 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army Noon Report webinar: “Army Climate Change Initiatives,” with Jack Surash, performing the duties of the assistant Army secretary for installations, energy and environment; and Amy Borman, deputy assistant Army secretary for environment, safety and occupational health.


8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 2, with Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies; Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Stephen Biegun, former deputy secretary of state; Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and more. See full agenda and register at


8:45 a.m. — Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress virtual discussion: “Transforming the U.S. Military for an Era of Great Power Competition,” with Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

10 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Nuclear Deterrence forum with Gordon Chang, East Asia expert, and author of numerous books on China; and Rick Fisher, senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. Video posted afterward at


“If we fight and try to do things in the traditional manner we have been we have been doing for as long as I have been in the Air Force, 36 years, we will lose ... We cannot continue to do the same things the same way and expect a different result against an adversary, a potential adversary that has watched us and studied us for the past couple of decades.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, in an interview with PBS NewsHour.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Biden directs Pentagon to figure out ‘how and when’ to require COVID vaccine for the military

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