Joe Biden’s approaching vaccine mandate for federal employees has led to thousands of U.S. intelligence agency officers resisting pressure to receive the shots, leading to growing concerns about the mandate’s impact on national security.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) has stated that he has information that several agencies still have as many as 20 to 40 percent of personnel unvaccinated, even with the November 22 deadline rapidly approaching. The CIA has reported a 97 percent compliance rate to date.
Biden announced the mandate in September through an executive order that requires federal employees and contractors receive the vaccination or face dismissal. The intelligence community is made up of 18 different agencies and employs around 100,000 people.
When Stewart announced the percentage range of intelligence officers who remain unvaccinated, he said that the data he based that statement on had not been released to the public and remained classified. Stewart has joined a group that has expressed concern that the mandate could leave critical intelligence missions understaffed.
The AP has reported on the difficulty that intelligence agencies face in replacing qualified officers for the specialized nature of their work. The reports also noted the difficulty in completing security checks for replacement personnel in intelligence positions.
As a result, Stewart has asked the administration to increase exemption approvals and delay the termination of intelligence officers who do not immediately comply with the mandate.
The General Services Administration has told all federal agencies that departure from the mandated “guidelines” may be necessary based on the operational needs of particular agencies.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) wrote to Biden last week warning that the mandate coils cause a “gaping hole in our intelligence community.” Mullin added that the mandate stands to punish professional officers for their “firmly held beliefs” and puts national “safety and security” at risk.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) told reporters that if someone is not willing to receive the shots, that “actually calls into question their ability to do the job effectively.” Neither Crow nor the mandate itself makes any accommodation for workers who have natural immunity through prior infection.
The Government Executive published a survey Friday that indicated that 53 percent of federal employees either “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed with the mandate. In comparison, 44 percent agreed with it either “strongly” or “somewhat.”