The United States government might dismiss thousands of its intelligence officers who have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lawmakers have expressed concern that this could potentially threaten national security.
Under President Joe Biden’s mandate, civilian workers have until Nov. 22 to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Utah Representative Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said at least 20% of the workforce of several intelligence agencies were unvaccinated as of late October.
Stewart said that based on confidential information provided to the committee, up to 40% of some agencies comprising the 18-member intelligence community were unvaccinated. Complete information on the agency’s vaccination rates is classified.
Last week, CIA Director William Burns reported a 97% vaccination rate among his agency’s officers. Similarly, 90% of the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates U.S. spy satellites, was vaccinated.
Stewart asked President Biden to approve more medical and religious exemptions to prevent any staffing issues that could impact the community’s work.
“My question is what’s the impact on national security if we do that?” Stewart said. “You’re potentially firing thousands of people on the same day. And it’s not like you put an ad on Craigslist and have people apply by Thursday.”
Colorado Democratic Representative Jason Crow has argued that getting vaccinated indicates readiness among employees and their agencies.
“If somebody is not willing to do what’s necessary to protect their own health and the health of their unit, that actually calls into question their ability to effectively do the job,” said Crow in an interview.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Vaccine mandates have faced significant resistance, particularly given an already-tight market for businesses looking to hire workers. Some first responders have resisted vaccine mandates, as have employee unions, arguing that mandates impinge on personal freedom.”
Federal employees who do not comply with Biden’s vaccine mandate by the deadline face serious consequences, including a 14-day suspension and possible dismissal.
Notably, the General Services Administration has indicated the agencies could follow alternative paths, depending on any “unique operational needs” and the “circumstances affecting a particular employee.”
Approximately 70% of the general American population over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, while nearly 81% have had at least one dose.