“[Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] has been clear that he supports maintaining the mandate and that the health and the readiness of our force remain the top priority,” said Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a briefing on Wednesday.
But, he added, “As always, we will comply with the law when it’s the law.”
The Biden administration in August 2021 mandated that all service members be fully vaccinated or face discharge. More than 8,400 service members were kicked out and tens of thousands more remained hold-outs. Many of them had requested religious or medical exemptions, which were largely dismissed.
Despite resistance, the Biden administration remained staunchly opposed to lifting the mandate, and Republicans were able to successfully include a provision repealing the mandate in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, to be enacted 30 days after the bill is signed.
The push to repeal the mandate was led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), with the support of a number of senators. In the House, a number of lawmakers also pushed for the repeal, particularly the House Freedom Caucus, GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).
Congress passed the bill last week, and on Monday, the White House said President Joe Biden would sign the bill, which authorizes $858 billion for the Department of Defense.
On what steps the Department of Defense is taking in terms of the pending repeal, Ryder said, “when and if we have something new to announce, we certainly will.”