Texas vaccine mandate ban tested by DoD requirement that federal contractors in state get shots

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The Pentagon said Thursday that defense contractors and their employees, including those in Texas, would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, despite an order from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott banning vaccine mandates in the Lone Star State.

According to the Pentagon, federal guidance trumps that of state and local laws, including the executive order issued by Abbott that prevents “any entity” in the state from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“These requirements are promulgated pursuant to federal law and supersede any contrary state or local law or ordinance,” the federal guidance states. “Additionally, nothing in the task force guidance shall excuse noncompliance with any applicable state law or municipal ordinance establishing more protective workplace safety protocols than those established under the task force guidance.”

The vaccine mandate directly impacts thousands of employees working for federal contractors operating out of Texas, including the aerospace and defense industry, which employs more than 148,000 in the state, according to the Texas Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

Last month, the White House said federal contractors must have a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 8. 

In an attempt to justify the mandate for federal contractors, Jason Miller, deputy White House Office of Management and Budget director, said last month that the vaccine requirement “will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors performing work for the federal government,” according to Reuters.

Following Biden’s executive order on vaccine mandates for federal contractors, Boeing announced this week that it will comply and require its more than 125,000 employees to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

Earlier this month, the Department of Defense announced in a memo that its more than 700,000 civilian employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus by late November.

“All DoD civilian employees must be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, subject to exemptions as required by law,” the memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, stated.

Other prominent contractors in Texas include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and L3Harris Technologies.

Gov. Abbott’s office could not be reached immediately for comment.

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