The White House announced Tuesday it 'strongly opposes' a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prevents the Pentagon from punishing or dishonorably discharging any service member who rejects a vaccine. A dishonorable discharge might as well be a criminal record as it is seen by potential employers, loan agents, landlords and even schools - and viewed with no context, effectively adding an un-erasable black mark to a stellar career.
'The Administration strongly opposes section 716, which would detract from readiness and limit a commander's options for enforcing good order and discipline when a Service member fails to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccination,' the White House Office of Management and Budget announced in a statement on the yearly bill that supports the Pentagon.
'To enable a uniformed force to fight with discipline, commanders must have the ability to give orders and take appropriate disciplinary measures.'
The Pentagon directed all service members to get vaccinated last month and didn't rule out court martialing those who don't.
Over 800,000 service members out of around 1.4 million still had to get their shots at the time of the mandate, according to Pentagon data.
Throughout the budget bill's markup under the House Armed Services Committee, an amendment, now section 716, proposed by Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., made its way into the bill that banned 'any discharge but honorable' for vaccine refusal.
'I am appalled that the Biden Administration is trying to remove my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevents anything but an honorable discharge for service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine,' Green announced in a statement. 'This was a bipartisan amendment — every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to it.'
Section 716 notes 'many Americans have reservations regarding taking a vaccine that has only been available for less than a year.'
'No American who raises their hand to serve our Nation should be punished for making a highly personal medical decision,' Green said earlier this month.
Republicans have balked at vaccine mandates across the board.
'Our readiness, our ability to take on the enemy is being undermined by forcing young people, people who are perfectly healthy, perfectly able to fend off Covid, and are required to have the vaccine,' Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told DailyMail.com in an interview.
The White House further took issue with section 720, which releases those who previously had a coronavirus infection from needing to receive the shot. The bill states that service members can be exempted for 'administrative, medical, or religious reasons, including on the basis of possessing an antibody test result demonstrating previous COVID–19 infection.'
The White House announced that Section 720 creates 'a new and overly broad exemption from the vaccination requirement for previous infection that would undermine the effectiveness of the requirement.'