The United Launch Alliance on Friday forced several employees to resign due to noncompliance with vaccination mandates. The mandates were instituted in anticipation of Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14042, which requires all federal contractors and subcontractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. According to its website, ULA is “the nation’s most experienced space launch company with more than 145 consecutive launches and a 100% mission success rate. ULA brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.” ULA has been the main launch provider for U.S. military and intelligence agencies since the company was formed in 2006. With the award of the Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement in August 2020, that status will continue through 2027.
A group of ULA employees in Decatur, Alabama protested the vaccine mandate a few days before their dismissal. They told reporters that all religious and most medical accommodation requests were denied by the company, despite the Biden Administration signaling that these were valid exceptions.
Many in the mainstream media have discussed the religious liberty and medical violations surrounding the mandate. Few have thought through the national security implications.
In a letter to the White House, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) raised concerns of supply-chain problems in the defense sector. He noted that the American “warfighter is ultimately harmed when skilled workers leave the defense contractor workforce” and that Alabama federal contractors “provide capabilities to the Pentagon that are often difficult to replicate.”
In a letter to all ULA employees to circumvent stay-at-home orders in April 2020, ULA stated that its “work is deemed critical to complete our nation’s missions.” ULA employees expressed concerns about the large number of retirements in October and what that means for losing institutional knowledge. Some pointed out that openings at the company had remained unfilled for months.
It is a reckless move to institute government orders that will likely remove skilled workers from the defense sector in the wake of China’s recent success in tests of hypersonic missiles. It is also reckless to allow companies in the defense industry to impose the administration’s overzealous mandates without weighing the cost to national security.
ULA employees are not the only ones forced to choose between their jobs and their private medical decisions. Employees at Sandia National Laboratories, one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratories in the country, were also let go last month. According to the Piñon Post, one Sandia employee said “I may lose my job, but the loss of talent and critical knowledge that is our nation’s security is a far greater concern. I will always serve our nation and my countrymen. Please join us and help us fight back against this flagrant tyranny.”
In light of the Biden Administration’s recent press briefing offering leniency about the deadline for federal contractors to be vaccinated, companies like ULA should reconsider forcing employees to either comply with the mandate or get the boot. Amid growing concerns of Beijing moving closer to bypassing U.S. missile defense systems, the defense industry must weigh the safety concerns of a virus with roughly a 98 percent recovery rate against threats to national security. The loss of institutional knowledge in the defense sector puts the country at great peril.