Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has joined Texas in federal court to stop the federal government from requiring National Guard members to obtain COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of their service to the state of Alaska and its people.
Governor Dunleavy and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are plaintiffs in the case against President Biden and Department of Defense officials. The governors contend the unconstitutional vaccine mandate usurps state sovereignty and illegally undermines their authorities as commanders of state National Guard units.
“Our Alaska National Guard has recently responded to winter storm disasters in Yakutat, the Interior, and the Mat-Su. What happens in the next disaster if Guard members can’t be activated because they chose not to get a federally-mandated COVID vaccine?” said Governor Dunleavy. “Protecting the freedom and liberty of National Guard members has fallen on responsible governors. The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority. I pledge to protect that medical freedom and to challenge the trampling of our state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.”
The Alaska Constitution states that the governor is the “commander-in-chief” of the armed forces of the State, and it empowers the governor to order Guard members into active State duty.
The Department of Defense demand to members of the Alaska Army National Guard and Alaska Air National Guard is an improper assertion of federal authority, the lawsuit maintains. Because the National Guard has not been placed into federal service, authority over the Guard falls to the states’ governors. The Pentagon has no legal authority to dictate actions or discipline on state Guard members, the complaint states.
“This is not a case demanding a position of pro- or anti-vaccine, nor is it a case that challenges any aspect of the federal government’s authority over National Guardsmen once federal authority has been properly established,” the lawsuit states. Rather, the Constitution is clear about the National Guard’s dual role of service to the United States and as a state militia. When not in federal service, authority to command the National Guard rests with state governors.
The lawsuit stated that Governors Dunleavy and Abbott ensured Guard members met military readiness standards “without compulsion, threat or micromanagement” from the federal government for more than 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late August 2021, the Secretary of Defense ordered all military members, including the Guard, to take COVID-19 shots. In November, the Secretary directed the Department of Defense to withhold salaries of unvaccinated, non-federalized, Guard members or deprive them of credit for drills and training.
“We rely on our National Guard to deploy during natural disasters and perform search-and-rescue operations. They keep Alaska safe and they are integral to protecting our state,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor, whose office represents Governor Dunleavy in the lawsuit. “The federal government’s mandate puts public safety and emergency response in jeopardy, while ignoring the Governor’s authority.”
In addition to the National Guard mandate lawsuit, Attorney General Taylor is participating in several other suits against the federal government’s overreaching vaccine requirements. Alaska has asked the courts to strike down illegal mandates for employees of large, private businesses, federal contractors, healthcare workers, and Head Start employees and volunteers.
Click here to view a copy of the lawsuit.