New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu joined 20 of his fellow GOP governors in a joint letter to congressional leadership objecting to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Sununu wants Congress to remove the vaccination mandate and prohibit its return.
“As governors, our ability to respond to natural disasters and conduct emergency operations is contingent upon the strength and size of our National Guard units,” the letter reads in part. “As Congressional leaders, it is your duty to provide for the national defense, and therefore, we call upon you to protect the men and women in uniform—who protect us—from an unnecessary vaccine mandate.
“As President Biden, himself, stated on September 18, 2022, ‘The pandemic is over.'”
At issue is the mandate’s impact on the ability to recruit and maintain service members. In September, Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the Army National Guard is 6,000 personnel short of its authorized end strength of 336,000 guard members. And he expects it may need to discharge up to 14,000 guard members over the next two years who have refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Federal News Network reports.
“The reason why this is a concern is obviously if you look at last year and the years prior to that, we have always met our authorized end strength,” Hokanson said.
As governor, Sununu has been aggressively pro-vaccine, urging citizens to get the original shot and the follow-up boosters. However, he also steadfastly opposed mandates — either requiring the shot, or laws forbidding local governments or private businesses from requiring it. As a result, he has faced repeated protests, including one incident that resulted in the shutdown of a scheduled Executive Council meeting by rowdy anti-vaccination activists.
In this case, however, Sununu and his fellow governors argue the “Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness here at home.
“We face a two-front problem due to the Biden vaccine mandate: current servicemembers are leaving our ranks, and new recruits are not signing up to join. Implementation of the mandate has placed our nation’s military readiness at risk.”
In their letter, the governors noted:
• On October 8, 2022, U.S. Army National Guard Chief of Staff Major General Rich Baldwin explained that the National Guard missed its recruiting target by 10 percent and announced that 7,500 members left service.
• On October 10, 2022, U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth revealed that the Army failed its recruitment goal by 25 percent falling 15,000 recruits short of the target.
• As of November 15, 2022, the Armed Forces discharged 8,000 Active Duty members since the implementation of the Biden vaccine mandate.
As new variants of COVID-19 have emerged, the efficacy of vaccines has declined, public health experts say, raising questions about the value of the Biden mandate in stopping the spread of the virus.
John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine told the New York Times that while older adults, immunocompromised people and pregnant women should get the boosters, the value of boosters for young, healthy people is less clear.
“The newer variants, called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, are spreading quickly, and boosters seem to do little to prevent infections with these viruses, as they are excellent evaders of immunity,” the Times reports.