Pentagon chief denies request to exempt Oklahoma National Guard from vaccine mandate

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the federal government's vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: The Army National Guard must be fully vaccinated by the end of next June while the Air National Guard faces a Dec. 2 deadline. Those who fail to comply will be barred from drills and other duties, and won't be paid even when they're under state control.

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What he's saying: "To maintain a healthy and ready military force capable of protecting the American people, the immediate vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential military readiness requirement for all components and units of the military, including the Oklahoma National Guard," Austin wrote in a letter to Stitt, who has been vocal about his opposition to the requirement.

  • "The concerns raised in your letter do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement."

  • No other state has made a similar request to the Pentagon.

Worth noting: Austin issued a memo on Tuesday warning that the department will "establish, as appropriate, policies and implementation guidance to address the failure to maintain this military medical readiness requirement by members of the non-federalized National Guard who remain unvaccinated."

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