The Pentagon has repeatedly stonewalled a congressional investigation into the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for military members and is withholding information about the number of active-duty service members who could be expelled from the military for refusing the vaccine.
For four months, Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis), ranking member of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has been pressing the Defense Department to turn over information related to the military’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, including the total number of shots administered across all service branches. The Pentagon has broken its promise to provide this information on two separate occasions, generating accusations the Biden administration is withholding this data from Congress.
"DoD’s consistent failure to respond to my requests in a timely manner is unacceptable particularly when my questions relate to the health and well-being of service members," Johnson wrote in his third request for information, sent to the Pentagon on Thursday and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The Biden administration’s refusal to be transparent with Congress about the military vaccine mandate is reaching a critical juncture as many active-duty military members face expulsion for refusing the shot. Around 40,000 active service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines face expulsion for challenging the vaccine mandate, though the number could be higher or lower, according to unofficial estimates by congressional investigators. Johnson and Republican colleagues in both the House and Senate are warning that the vaccine requirement could cripple the military's readiness as conflicts brew in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
"Given that DoD is still discharging service members who ‘refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19,’ I am concerned that your actions may threaten our defense capabilities," Johnson wrote. "I am sure you realize that you cannot discharge thousands of service members who are not fully vaccinated and hope to maintain any semblance of military readiness. The men and women of the armed forces who put their lives on the line to defend this country deserve your full transparency and cooperation with congressional oversight."
As the Pentagon stonewalls congressional probes into the matter, whistleblowers have stepped forward with internal Pentagon documents about the vaccine mandate. They appear to confirm that around 8 percent of active-duty military members are still unvaccinated and stand to be booted for their refusal.
Approximately 76 percent of the military is fully vaccinated, while 16 percent are partially vaccinated, according to a January internal Pentagon briefing marked unclassified but for official use only. The document was leaked to Congress by a lawyer representing Defense Department whistleblowers and reviewed by the Free Beacon.
The document contains detailed information about the military vaccine mandate and the Pentagon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It was released internally—but not to Congress—last month after Johnson requested this exact information in his first investigation letter, which is dated Oct. 12, 2021.
Johnson again requested this information on December 15, 2021, after the Pentagon ignored his initial letter. On Jan. 10—after the Pentagon had released its internal COVID briefing—Biden administration officials promised to provide Johnson and Congress with this information by March 31.
"This brief, dated January 12, 2022, appeared to contain data that I had requested from you including information on the vaccination status of service members," Johnson wrote in his latest letter to the Pentagon. "I request that you immediately provide an official copy of this apparent packet of information (enclosed) and all similar briefings compiled since August 24, 2021. If this brief is authentic, then why did DoD not immediately send me this information on vaccination status as soon as it was compiled?"
The Biden administration’s efforts to hide this information from Congress have fueled a fierce debate over the legality and efficacy of the vaccine mandate. While several of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates have been shot down in courts across the country, the military remains bound by it.
The Free Beacon reported in late January that religious exemption requests are being rejected by military brass. In the Marines, for instance, just three religious exemptions have been granted—all for personnel who were either leaving the service or not on active duty. This prompted accusations that military leaders are rejecting religious exemption requests across the board and trying to force active-duty Marines and others out of the service.