U.S. intelligence apparatus could lose thousands of officers due to vaccine mandate

With the November 22 deadline fast approaching, it is unclear if the U.S. will lose intelligence officers to the Biden administration vaccine mandate

Updated: November 5, 2021 - 8:05am

Thousands of intelligence officers may soon face dismissal for failing to comply with the U.S. government's vaccine mandate. The situation is raising concerns among Republican lawmakers about removing employees from agencies that are critical to U.S. national security.

As of late October, several intelligence agencies had at 20% of their workforce unvaccinated, according to Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Other agencies reportedly had as much as 40% of their workforce unvaccinated. 

The Nov. 22 deadline for civilians employees gives government intelligence workers several weeks to get vaccinated, though it is unclear how many will comply before the deadline. Intelligence officers are especially hard to replace, given the specialized nature of their work and the time it takes to complete security clearance checks.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to say what, if any, contingency plans are in place should officers be removed from their jobs due to not complying with the mandate. 

CIA Director William Burns disclosed that 97% of the agency's officers have been vaccinated. More than 90% of employees at the National Reconnaissance Office, which runs U.S. spy satellites, have been vaccinated. 

"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 Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, arguing that getting vaccinated is a sign of an employee and agency's readiness.