Defense

GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain

Nearly a dozen GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee on Friday pressed the Biden administration over the Pentagon's looming COVID-19 vaccination deadline for defense contractors, claiming the mandate should be reconsidered or it might compromise supply chains. 

"We strongly urge you to reconsider the manner in which you are seeking to address this issue so as not to harm the livelihood of civilian contractors, industry partners, and strategic goals of our armed services," the 11 lawmakers wrote to President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

"Those who adamantly refuse the vaccine will accept termination. We will lose critical experience in skilled labor. We will lose opportunities for mentorship and on-the-job training from veteran craftsmen. In the long-term, we will miss quality control standards. We will face endemic cost overruns and rework as decades of lessons are not passed to the next generation," they wrote.

Lawmakers who signed the letter were committee ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) as well as Republican Reps. Rob Wittman (Va.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Joe Wilson (S.C.), Blake Moore (Utah), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Jack Bergman (Mich.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Bill Posey (Fla.) and Jerry Carl (Ala.).

Austin in late August ordered all service members and defense personnel to "immediately begin" getting the coronavirus vaccine, leaving it to the individual military services to decide when to set deadlines for the inoculation.

Defense Department contractors need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or risk being fired, as laid out under guidance the Biden administration released for federal contractors and subcontractors in September.

In their letter, the lawmakers do not specifically ask the Pentagon to pause its mandate, rather, they ask the department to consider the economic negatives of such a rule.

"We have, from day one, promulgated [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and DoD guidance. We have championed the vaccine rollout and battled the surrounding misinformation. But we cannot stand idly by while the DoD makes a mistake that will inevitably compromise national security for decades," they wrote.

The letter follows a more pointed message sent earlier this week by Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who asked Austin to suspend the mandate altogether, claiming a "lack of clarity and consistency" among the military services in implementing the order.

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