The risk of the edict for the security of the nation questioned
WASHINGTON – Thousands of intelligence officers could soon be sacked for failing to meet the U.S. government’s vaccine mandate, leading Republican lawmakers to worry about the withdrawal of employees from agencies essential to national security.
Overall, the percentage of intelligence personnel who have been vaccinated is higher than for the American public – 97% at the CIA, for example. But there are lower percentages in parts of the 18-agency intelligence community of around 100,000 people, according to Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
Citing information he said had been provided to the House Intelligence Committee but not made public, Stewart said several intelligence agencies had at least 20% of their workforce unvaccinated at the end of October. In some agencies, up to 40% are unvaccinated, Stewart said. He refused to identify the agencies because all the information was classified.
While many people will likely still be vaccinated before the administration’s Nov. 22 deadline for civilian workers, resistance to the warrant could leave key national security agencies unmanned. Intelligence officers are particularly difficult to replace due to the highly specialized work they perform and the difficulties in obtaining security clearances.
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CIA Director William Burns revealed last week that 97% of the agency’s agents have been vaccinated. The National Reconnaissance Office, which operates American spy satellites, has more than 90% of its workforce vaccinated.
The office of the director of national intelligence has refused several requests to provide figures for the intelligence community. The office also wouldn’t say what contingency plans are in place in case the officers are suspended.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines declined in a hearing last week to reveal what percentage of the workforce had been vaccinated, but said: “We don’t expect this to be a problem for the mission.” .
The vaccination rates provided by Stewart are mostly higher than those of the general population of the United States. About 70% of American adults are fully immunized, and 80% have received at least one dose.
Stewart called on the administration to approve more exemptions for people for medical, religious and other reasons, and to delay any dismissals of intelligence officers.
“My question is, what is the impact on national security if we do this?” said Stewart. “You are potentially laying off thousands of people on the same day. And it’s not like you put an ad on Craigslist and people apply by Thursday.”
Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee say they are confident that the vaccination mandate will not pose a problem for the intelligence community. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., Said the agencies were doing “pretty well” and getting the shot was a sign of an employee’s preparedness.
“If someone is unwilling to do what is necessary to protect their own health and that of their unit, it calls into question their ability to do the job effectively,” Crow said in an interview.
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Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, was vaccinated but said he opposed the warrants as intrusive and counterproductive.
“If you say, ‘You have to do this and we won’t consider any exceptions to that,’ that’s where you get people to get started,” he said.
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Echoed Stewart’s concerns at a hearing last week and told agency executives that the issue of unvaccinated employees “affects all of you and us around the world. “.