WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday rejected a request by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that his state’s National Guard be exempt from a Pentagon requirement that all military members be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Stitt, a Republican, had asked Austin in early November to suspend the mandate for members of the Oklahoma Guard.
A spokesman for Stitt, Charlie Hannema, said in response to Austin’s rejection letter that the governor “maintains his position” that he is commander in chief of the Oklahoma Guard while they are on Title 32 status, meaning while they are on active duty under state control but with pay and benefits provided by the federal government.
The dispute is the first critical test of the military’s authority to require National Guard troops to get the shot, and it could lay the groundwork for legal battles with states that oppose the vaccine requirement.
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