U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered all National Guard and Reserve service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face the loss of pay and other consequences, according to a memo released Tuesday.
The order comes amid a dispute between the Pentagon and the National Guard in the central U.S. state of Oklahoma over the Defense Department coronavirus vaccine mandate.
The memo, sent from Austin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military service secretaries, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said federal funds may not be used to pay for any duties carried out by unvaccinated troops who have not received a Department of Defense waiver.
Austin’s memo adds that National Guard service members who remain unvaccinated by the Army and Air Force vaccination deadlines cannot drill or train and will be penalized with unexcused absences, which will affect the days they accumulate for retirement.
“In some ways, the memo relieves stress for Oklahoma Guard members (because) it provides clear guidance and removes the question of which authority they should listen to,” Katherine Kuzminski, the director of the military, veterans, and society program at the Center for a New American Security, told VOA Wednesday.
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