An investigation by the Defense Department has revealed potential security risks regarding a Pentagon program whereby more than 10,000 foreign nationals have been enrolled in the US military since 2009.
The initiative, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), was created at the tail end of the Bush-Cheney administration and implemented under President Obama in order for the Pentagon to quickly recruit soldiers with skills, such as speaking a certain language, that are in short supply in the States. Applicants are offered US citizenship in exchange for US military service based on the desirability of their skill set.
Despite producing first class soldiers such as 2012 Soldier of the Year Sgt. Saral Shrestha, and producing better servicemen on average than soldiers not part of the program, MAVNI has endured criticism in recent months.
Created back in 2009, the execution of the program’s mandate has grown sloppy. Proper documentation of each soldier recruited through the program is falling off, resulting in a lack of knowledge of where certain soldiers are, what their skills are, and how they were recruited. The failing administrative arm of the program has led to Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., a retired Army officer who sits on the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel to voice concerns of “foreign infiltration”.
“The lack of discipline in implementation of this program has created problems elsewhere,” said Rep. Steve Russell. “The program has been replete with problems, to include foreign infiltration – so much so that the Department of Defense is seeking to suspend the program due to those concerns.”
Given the foreign, undocumented nature of the program’s recruits, the order of operations in processing them is paramount. Each recruit must go through a background check before being formally enrolled. But at the crux of MAVNI’s issues is a vetting back log whereby recruits were being enrolled prior to completion of their background checks. Furthermore, military leadership began to notice an attendant “drift” in the program’s criteria, in which recruits no longer possessed the skills the program intended to seek out in the first place. Instead MAVNI was resulting in the hiring of cooks, drivers, and mechanics.
The title of the inspector general’s classified report – “Evaluation of Military Services’ Compliance with Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program Security Reviews and Monitoring Programs” – hints at the problems, with its references to “security reviews” and “monitoring” of enrolled individuals.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has also voiced concerns of the program but has experienced backlash in cracking down. Mattis was named as the sole defendant in a lawsuit from seven foreign born MAVNI enrollees who claimed decisions by military leadership to tighten up security clearances had the effect of “crippling their military careers”.
Thus while concerns of “foreign infiltration” may be premature, concerns of improper administration are more than justified. One lawmaker told Fox News that DoD officials were unable to get answers to questions about soldiers in the program such as: “Where are they? What do they know? Where are they serving? What are their numbers?”
That kind of a lack of accountability is troubling, rightly prompting questions about potential infiltration from enemy organizations. To date, however, the investigation has turned up no evidence of infiltration by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist groups. But the investigation is meant to stop that before it happens.
“ISIS has always had desire to use migration as way to penetrate into countries,” said retired U.S. Army General Jack Keane, a Fox News military analyst. “They have done that successfully in Europe because of open borders, mass immigration with no vetting. In the U.S., we haven’t had any record of their penetration. And certainly if this program is compromised and there’s a possibility of that kind of penetration, it’s got to be thoroughly investigated.”
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