Texas has become the seventh state to decline any role in enforcing the Pentagon’s federal vaccine mandate upon its state National Guard, setting up a potential showdown between the state and the federal government over the matter.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his refusal to direct the Texas National Guard to obey the federal vaccine mandate, in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month. The Governors of Alaska, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming have originally expressed the same sentiment to the Secretary of Defense, with Oklahoma becoming the first state to fight against the federal vaccine mandate when the state adjutant general, Thomas Mancino, ordered that no service member face negative consequences for declining vaccination.
“The State of Texas will not enforce this latest COVID-19 vaccine mandate against its guardsmen,” Abbott wrote in his letter to Secretary Austin. “If the federal government keeps threatening to defund the Texas National Guard, I will deploy every legal tool available to me as Governor in defense of these American heroes.”
The federal government is continuing efforts to implement the vaccine mandate on state National Guards, with lower percentage of guardsmen vaccinated than active-duty military service members. The federal government is threatening to withhold pay and benefits for guardsmen who aren’t vaccinated, potentially jeopardizing their prospects of participating in operations in which state guards are activated for federal service.
Governor Abbott, as well as Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Thomas Mancino, have warned the federal government that the vaccine mandate stands to adversely affect retention and recruitment, with the former stating that it would “hollow out” the Texas National Guard.
State governors have argued that the services members of their National Guards are exempt from the vaccine mandate while they’re under state control, with the feds asserting in turn that they’ll withhold funding and pay for those that decline the vaccine.
Governor Abbott is pledging to “deploy every legal tool available to me as Governor in defense of these American heroes” in continuing legal disputes over vaccine mandates applying to the Texas National Guard.
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