President Joe Biden recently signed into law an $858 billion defense spending bill that includes provisions on the COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. military forces. The bill effectively ends the mandate that required troops to get the vaccine and gives the Pentagon 30 days to develop details on rescinding the mandate. Military leaders have expressed concern over potential health risks if troops refuse the vaccine.
The bill also includes a 4.6% pay raise for servicemembers and the Defense Department’s civilian workforce. It is unclear if the services, who are facing recruiting challenges, will want to allow discharged service members who met all necessary fitness and other requirements to return.
The new defense spending bill contains important measures for U.S. military forces and their families. The lifting of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will give troops the freedom to decide if they want to get the shot. While military leaders have expressed concern over potential health risks, the bill also includes a 4.6% pay raise and could open the door to allowing discharged service members to return. It remains to be seen how the Pentagon will handle the details of rescinding the vaccine mandate, and what other restrictions may remain for troops on specific missions or assigned to certain areas.