Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began the process to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory for all U.S. military personnel on Aug. 9.

“I just sent a memo encouraging the force to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and I informed them I will seek [the] president of the United States’s approval to add it to the list of required vaccines for all service members no later than mid-September, or upon U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure–whichever comes first,” he said on Twitter.

Austin hopes the mandate will take effect within five weeks. He claims removing every active duty trooper’s right to make informed medical decisions will keep the military “healthy and ready” enough to protect America.

“All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective,” he said. “They will protect us, and they will ensure we remain the most lethal and ready force in the world.”

The defense secretary stressed he would seek President Joe Biden’s approval after consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, secretaries of the military departments, service chiefs, and medical professionals.

Austin also confirmed the Pentagon will comply with Biden’s direction for additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated federal personnel. This includes face masks, social distancing, and travel limits. They will applied to uniformed, civilian, and contractor personal too.

The secretary did not rule out bringing forward the deadline, in case COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise due to the Delta variant. Another deciding factor is if the FDA grants final approval for vaccines earlier than expected.

“I strongly encourage all Department of Defense military and civilian personnel, as well as contractor personnel, to get vaccinated now and for military service members to not wait for the mandate,” he said.

President Biden earlier asked the department to investigate “how and when they will add COVID-19” to the list of mandatory vaccinations.

USA Today reported more than 1 million U.S. troops are already fully vaccinated. More than 237,000 received one shot, and 74% of Navy personnel received at least one dose. The Air Force (65%) and Reserve forces (60%) are partially vaccinated.

So far, relatively few U.S. service members have died from COVID-19 because they are generally younger and fitter. The disease often kills patients who suffer from heart disease, diabetes, dementia, pneumonia, and other chronic diseases.