On Friday, Joe Biden signed the $847 billion National Defense Authorization Act defense policy bill which included a caveat repealing the military Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
The mandate requiring servicemembers be vaccinated against Covid-19 had been in place since August 2021, when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a controversial memo announcing the requirement spanning all branches of the military.
The mandate was a source of consternation for numerous military servicemembers, with many struggling to balance their years of service with the new requirement forcing them to seek exemptions if they had strongly-held religious beliefs or other conscientious objections.
In light of the requirement, many distinguished servicemembers either quit the service, or were terminated.
Fox News reports:
The National Defense Authorization Act will terminate the COVID-19 vaccine for military members, but it does not reinstate members of the military who were discharged or had their benefits cut for refusing to get the vaccine. Reinstatement is a priority for some Republicans who have said the strict mandate is one reason why military recruitment is at a “record low.”
However, Politico notes the NDAA doesn’t bar the mandate from making a return if Secretary of Defense wills it so.
But the defense bill doesn’t bar the Pentagon from issuing a new vaccine requirement in the coming months, meaning Austin could implement a new policy once the old directive is repealed. That would likely spark a battle with the GOP-led House next year, when Republicans are expected to continue to press the Pentagon over reinstating troops who were kicked out and giving them back pay.