A GOP lawmaker has raised concerns over the potential dismissal of unvaccinated intelligence employees if they should fail to comply with the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination deadline for civilian workers later this month.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said on Friday that COVID-19 vaccination rates are different in all the 18-agency intelligence communities in the United States.
“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,” Stewart said.
“My question is, what’s the impact on national security if we do that?” he questioned over the potential removal of thousands of intelligence personnel, who are particularly hard to replace due to the highly specialized work they do and the difficulties of completing security clearance checks.
Stewart cited information that he said had been provided to the House Intelligence Committee but has not yet been released publicly.
The Republican lawmaker said that some intelligence agencies had at least 20 percent of their workforce unvaccinated as of late October, The Associated Press reported. In other agencies, as many as 40 percent of intelligence personnel remain unvaccinated.
In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson from Stewart’s office confirmed that the figures listed in the story published by AP are accurate.
“Unfortunately, anything more specific than that is classified,” the spokesperson wrote.
President Joe Biden has ordered all civilian employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, as well as those employed by federal contractors and entities receiving federal support, in connection with the government’s many virus recovery programs.
Federal employees who aren’t vaccinated or haven’t received an exemption by the November deadline could face a suspension of 14 days or fewer, followed by possible dismissal.
The director of the Office of National Intelligence declined several requests to announce the overall vaccination rate for the roughly 100,000 people who work across the 18-agency intelligence communities.
The CIA disclosed publicly last week that 97 percent of its workforce is vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19. The National Reconnaissance Office, which operates U.S. spy satellites, reports a 90 percent vaccination rate.
Avril Haines, the director of the Office of National Intelligence under the Biden administration, declined to state last week what percentage of the agency’s workforce has been vaccinated against the CCP virus.
Biden’s vaccination mandates have faced significant resistance nationwide, sparking protests around the country. Multiple cities, including Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and New York, have also ordered employees to get vaccinated. In late October, thousands of police, firefighters, and other city employees in New York took to the streets to protest.
Civil liberties groups such as Liberty Counsel report being contacted by thousands of federal military and civilian workers, as well as corporate employees, seeking legal assistance in their efforts to be exempted from the mandates on the basis of medical or religious grounds.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said they are confident the vast majority of intelligence workers will comply with Biden’s vaccination mandate.
“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,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said during an interview.
Stewart, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, says he has been vaccinated against the CCP virus himself, but he opposes the government mandating the vaccines.
“If you say, ‘you have to do this and we won’t consider any exceptions to that,’ that’s where you get people to dig in their heels,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.