Pentagon Threatens to Downgrade Oklahoma National Guard to a "State Militia" Unless It Complies With Vaccine Mandate

AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Last week, I posted on a skirmish brewing between Lloyd Austin and his cronies in the Defense Department and the State of Oklahoma. Austin has mandated that all members of the Defense Department receive the alleged vaccination for the Wuhan virus or face dismissal. Oklahoma’s governor, Kevin Stitt, is against such federal overreach and went so far as to relieve the State Adjutant General who meekly kowtowed to Austin rather than obey his legal commander. My post on the subject is at Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Dropkicks National Guard General Who Kowtowed to Lloyd Austin’s Stupid Vaccine Mandate.

A little earlier, the first warning shot was fired. This is from the Voice of America reporter covering the Pentagon.

Three thoughts come immediately to mind.

First, the abject cowardice that results in making an anonymous response to any substantive challenge is pretty much par for the course from what we’ve seen of the Austin-Milley team. Once you get outside of combatting white rage and ensuring the right number of the “right” people at all levels, their concern about the US military ends. Second, they are playing a weak hand. If you’ve ever been in the Pentagon, you know the lobbying clout the National Guard Bureau can bring to bear even though it can’t officially lobby. If there were actual “consequences” in the offing, some anonymous person wouldn’t give a “scoop” to a fourth echelon outlet like VOA. Third, they are convinced they can wait this out, hence the anonymous official’s effort to spell out the June 2022 deadline for compliance.

The New York Times has more:

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that a failure to follow “valid medical readiness requirements” could “jeopardize” the status of troops.

The officials insist that Mr. Stitt has no legal standing to obviate the mandate, though experts on the obscure laws governing the Guard disagree. They note that unless federally deployed, National Guard members are under the jurisdiction of the governor of their state and therefore not subject to federal mandates. “Guard members can only serve one boss at a time,” said John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States.

The Pentagon is not without redress. It could deny funding to state units or impede the promotions of Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated. Officials said Wednesday that Guard members who refused to be vaccinated also could face dismissal, just as with active duty troops.

“Oklahoma may be able to take this step as a legal matter, but there are definitely things the federal government can do in response that might make it a painful Pyrrhic victory,” said Eugene Fidell, an adjunct professor of law at the New York University Law School. “The governor and state adjutant general thus might find themselves commanding some very unhappy personnel.”

The Pentagon is bracing for other states to follow Oklahoma’s lead. So far none have, but many are believed to be closely watching the situation, which could become the subject of lawsuits. “This could be contagious,” Mr. Fidell said.

While the vast majority of active duty troops have been vaccinated, the percentage of those in the Guard has dragged below the averages for the civilian population. In Oklahoma, 89 percent of airmen in the Guard have been vaccinated, while only 40 percent of Army guardsmen have had shots.

Charitably speaking, Fidell is either an idiot, or he gives a damned good impression of one. Title 32, US Code, guarantees federal recognition to National Guard officers filling an authorized position in a National Guard unit. There is no “vaccine exception.” He is right about one thing, fighting this out could become a “painful Pyrrhic victory,” just not for Oklahoma. Guard funding is appropriated separately from the funding for the active component. Austin could conceivably try to sequester Oklahoma’s funding, but it is difficult to see where he could get that authority or why a man of so little in the way of reputation and charisma would want to pick a fight.

I’m not really sure about the downside of the Oklahoma Guard reverting to a “state militia.”  The odds of federal funding being pulled approach zero. A worst-case scenario might see some of the OK Guard disbanded; while that would be depriving the Department of Defense of assets, it would not be depriving Oklahoma Guardsmen of jobs, but it would free them from nuisance deployments.

Arguably, Joe Biden could call the Oklahoma Guard to active duty and keep them there long enough to enforce his mandate and discharge the recalcitrant, but that might not play out the way he would wish. More from the New York Times:

Spokesmen for the National Guard in North Dakota and Florida — whose governors oppose vaccine mandates — said they were following the Pentagon order, while officials in Texas were more vague.

“The decision whether or not to receive a vaccination is a personal matter each soldier and airman must weigh. The Texas National Guard provides the resources necessary for each service member to make informed decisions,” an unidentified spokesperson said in response to an email query. The official added that the state’s Guard members would be subject to a mandate only when they were serving in a federal status, suggesting that Texas could be following Oklahoma’s lead.

Texas being willing to go on the record with that statement indicates that there are other states already following that policy and are simply keeping quiet about it. If Austin and his buttboys push too hard, they are likely to end up with a full-blown mutiny by about half the governors in the country.