The nation’s biggest military shipbuilder, Huntington Ingalls, will not enforce the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate at its Virginia and Mississippi sites unless the Pentagon rewrites its contract to reflect the requirement, it announced last week.

General Dynamics and others may make the same request, though some defense contractors had followed other large companies across sectors to require vaccines even before they were mandated, Defense One noted.

All companies that do work for the federal government are required to have their workforces fully vaccinated by Jan. 18, under orders from President Biden. There is no option for vaccine-hesitant workers to get regular tests instead, as is the case with non-contractor companies.

“Our focus is on being able to keep the workforce you need as a company to deliver on the contracts you have, and the future contracts that you’re going to get,” said David Berteau, CEO of the Professional Services Council, a trade association for contractors. “One way to retain that workforce is to have the testing option.”

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Croft