NDAA headed to Biden's desk sans reinstatement language for vax refusers

NDAA headed to Biden's desk sans reinstatement language for vax refusers

NDAA headed to Biden's desk sans reinstatement language for vax refusers

A retired Air Force officer had hoped for stronger language in the soon-to-be-signed NDAA that would have curtailed what he views as the Pentagon's "abuse of power" surrounding the military vaccine mandate that resulted in thousands being booted from the military.

Before leaving town for the year, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act on a bipartisan basis (310-118), with 73 Republicans voting against it. That result angered many GOP conservatives who had feared passage of a weakened NDAA almost completely void of meaningful Republican input. As it turns out, that's what happened.

While the bill authorizes a pay raise for troops, it does little to restrict the Pentagon's diversity initiatives, abortion travel policy, and gender-manipulation procedures for service members.

Having previously been approved by the Senate on Wednesday (87-13), the legislation now goes to the Oval Office for the president's signature.


Re: the vaccine mandate … and its fallout

As the Senate vote on the 2024 NDAA approached, U.S. service members expressed rage about the language used in the bill on the heels of a now-rescinded military vaccine mandate. While multiple service members expressed similar views to American Family News, Col. Thomas Rempfer (USAF-Ret.) spoke* to the $886 billion defense bill, pointing out what he calls "an unhealthy ongoing ethical dilemma."

"The Department of Defense (DOD) is historically granted undue discretion and deference in matters of national defense," he notes, "but then in turn the Department abuses its power by violating the laws that our Congress put on the books in order to protect our troop's health rights."

Having served in the U.S. Air Force for 32 years, Rempfer shares that "across many decades, [the DOD] has proven culturally incapable of remedying errors due to its affirmed illegal policies." He points to the illegal anthrax vaccine mandate initiated in 1998 as an example.

Rempfer, Col. Thomas (ret.) Rempfer

Now, 25 years later, Rempfer expresses similar disdain in the wake of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's once-mandated COVID-19 vaccine requirement that was forced upon thousands of service members in 2021 and 2022.

Thousands were booted out or forced into retirement for refusing the jab. Fiscal Year 2024's version of the NDAA offers reinstatement for those involuntarily separated from service. According to the current proposal, "At the request of a covered individual during the two years following the date of the involuntary separation of the covered individual, the Secretary concerned shall consider reinstating such covered individual."

For Rempfer, this kind of language is weak and an insult to those who were kicked out of the military. "The 2024 NDAA language should be more direct [and should read] 'shall reinstate,'" he explains.

Honorable discharges were sparse as service members were separated from service for refusing to take the shot. In addition to possible reinstatement, the annual defense bill also offers upgraded discharges if a "discharge or dismissal was solely based on the failure of such former member to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccine for COVID-19."

Rempfer argues that "characterizations of discharge should be unilaterally upgraded to fully honorable for all troops, without application, in order to ensure there are no inequities."

He adds: "All troops deserve immediate, fully honorable characterizations of discharge, restoration of educational benefits, and the right to be reinstated into the armed forces upon request and without further delay."

The retired Air Force officer also scoffs at the claim that the military vaccine mandate was ever a lawful order. To the contrary, he points out how the order was unlawful, in direction violation of 10 U.S.C. 1107a.

"The order also specifically violated the express requirements of the SecDef implementation directive, which required fully approved and properly labeled COVID inoculations," he explains. "No fully approved shots were ever provided to the troops through the mandate deadlines, and instead, only an unapproved emergency use authorization (EUA) product was made available."

Rempfer argues: "The current 2024 NDAA should be modified by Congress to assert firm constitutionally required civilian control over the military." He contends that "this overdue leadership by the Congress is the best means to halt the pattern of willfully violating the law by the senior leaders of the DOD."

He also maintains that corrections should not be exclusively related to only COVID mandate refusals, since the DOD subordinate chains of command have a track record of manufacturing a pattern of misconduct tangentially related to the core refusal.

"If refusal to obey the patently illegal order was the core issue leading to discharge, the entirety of the professional service record should be expunged," he asserts.

In addition, he suggests that current members of Congress "digest the historic patterns of DOD misconduct, as well as their manipulations of Congress, pertaining to the health rights of our troops" – after which, "the legislature should also execute reforms to remove the DOD Congressional Liaison Office lobbying arm on Capitol Hill, as well as require their DoD liaisons to wear uniforms while working in the halls of Congress."

Such reforms, says Rempfer, will curtail DOD's "inordinate interference with congressional activities" and also ensure that members of Congress "realize the extent of the DOD's presence on Capitol Hill and the depth of their unhealthy influence into the decision-making processes of the Congress."

* Thomas Rempfer emphasizes that his views do not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense.