WASHINGTON (KFOR) – The U.S. Department of Defense spoke Monday about the Oklahoma National Guard rejecting the Pentagon’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
It’s a war of words unfolding between Oklahoma and the Pentagon.
President Joe Biden mandated military members be vaccinated. However, the Oklahoma National Guard says its taking orders from Gov. Kevin Stitt instead.
It all started with last weekend’s announcement that the state national guard will follow Stitt’s order, citing U.S. code.
However, the U.S. Department of Defense said they have the authority to mandate the vaccines regardless.
“The secretary has the authorities he needs to require this vaccine across the force and that includes the national guard,” said John Kirby, the department of defense’s press secretary. “He will respond appropriately.”
Over the weekend, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, appointed by Stitt as Oklahoma’s adjutant general last week, issued an update to the COVID-19 vaccine policy for the Oklahoma National Guard.
The full statement can be read below.
“This policy is not anti-vaccine. I and the Governor are both vaccinated. I encourage all our Oklahoma Guard Members to get vaccinated if they choose to do so. We want to educate and inform our Soldiers and Airmen so that they can make an informed decision regarding the DoD Vaccine Mandate.
Under Title 32, Congress established a dual framework for the National Guard. The states receive federal funding in return for being made available to the federal government when called to active duty by the President.
Under Title 32, the Oklahoma National Guard is a state-controlled and federally-funded entity and takes orders from the Governor and his designated chain of command. When mobilized by the President, under Title 10, the Oklahoma National Guard takes all orders from the President and his designated chain of command.
Failing to follow the Governor’s lawful orders while on Title 32 would be both illegal, unethical, and against our sworn oaths. Nothing in this order prevents anyone from taking the vaccine. Also, nothing in his order eliminates the Federal Requirement. The Governor is hoping for Federal Relief from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and in the interim has granted state relief from this requirement.
Until a Guardsman is activated under Title 10, they follow the lawful commands of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma, who has not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for Oklahoma Guard Members. Once activated to title 10 status, Guardsmen are subject to all Title 10 laws and mandates until returning to Title 32 status.
If you [Oklahoma Guard Members] are not mobilized on Title 10 orders, the only entity that can give you a “lawful” order – that is an order backed by the authority of law – is the Governor and his designated State chain of command. That “law” is Title 32 U.S. code. This is easily seen by the fact that the UCMJ does not apply to you in Title 32 status. Instead, you are governed by the Oklahoma Code of Military Justice (OCMJ).
Therefore, Brig. Gen. Mancino provided the policy clarifying the Governor’s order that Soldiers and Airmen in the Oklahoma National Guard are relieved from this requirement until mobilized in accordance with the Constitution, the Law, and sworn oath.
The Governor’s request is with Secretary Austin for decision, and the National Guard Bureau has indicated it will conduct a legal review of our position. The proper venue for the resolution of these issues is the Governor’s office, Congress, and the Federal Executive branch. Not the court of public opinion in the press or on social media.”
In part, the statement cites title 32 of U.S. code and says the national guard is a “…state-controlled and federally-funded entity and takes orders from the Governor and his designated chain of command.”
Continuing by saying it is “…illegal, unethical, and against our sworn oaths” for the Oklahoma National Guard to not follow the governor’s order.
“He still has that authority even when they’re in a title 32 status,” Kirby said. “It is a lawful order.”
A capitol reporter pressed Kirby after he wouldn’t elaborate on how, or even if the measure will be enforced in Oklahoma.
“Everyone is looking to this building and your boss for what he’s going to do about it and so far that appears to be nothing,” the reporter said.
“I dont think that’s a fair way to put it Megan,” Kirby said. “He just got this from governor of Oklahoma, I’m not going to speculate, hopefully it won’t come to that.”
Stitt’s order lists no repercussions for those who don’t get vaccinated.
Mancino also pointed to title 10 where the President mobilizes the national guard and therefore are under federal authority.
In the statement Mancino said, “until a Guardsman is activated under Title 10, they follow the lawful commands of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma.”
But the department of defense is still in disagreement.
“They are subject to that order,” Kirby said. “It’s important that they get the vaccine so that they can be a more ready force.”