A US Republican lawmaker is raising concerns that America's intelligence agencies could lose thousands of workers if they do not comply with the Biden administration's vaccine deadline of Nov. 23.
There are 18 agencies that fall under America's national intelligence community.
Republican Chris Stewart of Utah, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Friday that there are differing COVID-19 vaccination rates among those agencies, with some rates as high as 80%, and others as low as 60%.
He cited information that he says he has learned from the Biden administration, but which the administration has not yet released publicly.
"My question is, what's the impact on national security," Stewart asked of the potential of losing thousands of intelligence officers, who are typically difficult to replace because of their specialized training. Stewart is calling on the Biden administration to grant more exceptions to the vaccine mandate based on religious and medical grounds and to delay any possible terminations.
The director of the Office of National Intelligence is not announcing the overall vaccination rate for the roughly 100,000 people who work in national intelligence. But some individual agencies have already announced high vaccination rates.
The CIA says 97% of its workforce is vaccinated, while the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates US spy satellites, is reporting a 90% vaccination rate.
Employees who have not been vaccinated by Nov. 23, face the possibility of a two-week suspension, followed by termination if they do not eventually get the shot.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say they are confident the vast majority of intelligence workers will get the vaccine by that deadline. Democratic Representative Jason Crow told a reporter, "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."
Stewart, a former member of the Air Force, says he has gotten the vaccination himself, but, like most Republicans, opposes blanket vaccine mandates.