The Kansas National Guard must comply with a Defense Department directive to mandate vaccines for its troops or risk losing federal funds, the guard’s commanding officer told a lawmaker this week.
Maj. Gen. David A. Weishaar, the guard’s adjutant general, said he must comply with an order issued on Aug. 24 by the secretary of defense mandating vaccines for all members of the armed forces, including the National Guard.
“A failure to comply with regulations authorized under (federal law) may result in the withdrawing of federal recognition of units or members, or the withholding of money, aid, benefit, or any other privilege authorized by law,” Weishaar wrote.
“I share your concerns about the utilization of state appropriated funds,” he wrote in his letter dated Oct. 13.
“However, as an entity subject to the discipline prescribed by Congress, I must ensure compliance with the regulations and requirements of the Department of Defense.”
Republican state Rep. Pat Proctor, along with two other Republican lawmakers, sent a letter to Weishaar this week asking about the guard’s plans to impose a vaccine mandate.
They cited a Sept. 24 warning order that said National Guard soldiers not getting a vaccine will could be subject to reprimand and being removed from the guard.
The letter from the legislators sought to find out whether the vaccine mandate violates a new law passed last session that prevents state agencies from spending money to enforce a vaccine passport.
The letter from the legislators says that when the guard is not activated for federal service, it is subject to state law and is funded by appropriations allocated by the Legislature.
In response, Weishaar said state funds are an “absolute requirement” to continue receiving federal funding for readiness and federal recognition of the guard.
He noted that much of the federal funding received for the National Guard requires a match from state government.
“Rest assured that the Kansas National Guard will not utilize state appropriated funds to
satisfy vaccination requirements of members of the National Guard of the United States,” Weishaar said.
Proctor, a 25-year Army veteran from Leavenworth, said he’s deciding what step to take next in response to Weishaar’s letter.
A spokeswoman for the adjutant’s general’s office has not responded to requests for comment about the legislative inquiry.
It was not known how many members of the Kansas guard have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
It also was unclear how much money the guard could lose if it doesn’t require the mandated vaccines.
The adjutant general’s office received about $9 million from the state general fund in fiscal year 2021 and about $124 million from all funds, including federal money.
The order sets out that the vaccine mandate would be implemented in three phases, starting with educating any National Guard troops that are not vaccinated.
The education phase would end Dec. 31.
A second phase for vaccinating National Guard troops would start Jan. 1 and continue through March 31.
There would be a third phase that would run from April 1 to June 30 when an order “initiating voluntary separation actions on those who refuse the vaccine who are not pursuing exemptions.”
In his response to Proctor, the adjutant general pointed out that the Kansas National Guard is required to be a member of the National Guard of the United States.
“This dual enlistment provides for the efficient utilization of soldiers and airmen to satisfy the needs of the state of Kansas and the national defense of our country,” he wrote.
“With this dual enlistment comes the responsibility of ensuring all members of the Kansas National Guard are compliant with the regulations, directives, and instructions of their respective service branch.”