Defense Department investigators have discovered “potential security risks” in a Pentagon program that has enrolled more than 10,000 foreign-born individuals into the U.S. armed forces since 2009, Fox News has learned exclusively, with sources on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon expressing alarm over “foreign infiltration” and enrollees now unaccounted for.
After more than a year of investigation, the Pentagon’s inspector general recently issued a report – its contents still classified but its existence disclosed here for the first time – identifying serious problems with Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), a DOD program that provides immigrants and non-immigrant aliens with an expedited path to citizenship in exchange for military service.
Defense Department officials said the program is still active but acknowledged that new applications have been suspended.
Created in the final weeks of the Bush-Cheney administration and launched under then-President Barack Obama, MAVNI was designed to recruit individuals with foreign-language and other skills the Pentagon deems useful and in short supply. The program has had many success stories – most notably the Army’s Soldier of the Year in 2012, Sgt. Saral Shrestha, originally of Nepal – and independent analyses have found MAVNI recruits out-perform non-MAVNI soldiers in critical areas.
Yet concern over management of the program has grown over recent months.
“The lack of discipline in implementation of this program has created problems elsewhere,” said Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., a retired Army officer who sits on the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel. It was Russell who first publicly sounded alarms. During the markup of the latest defense authorization bill, on June 28, Russell noted: “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.”
Another lawmaker, whose committee does not enjoy jurisdiction over MAVNI – but whose panel could well come to focus on these problems, depending on their severity – told Fox News that the program had been “compromised” and that DOD officials have not presented answers to his questions about missing enrollees: “Where are they? What do they know? Where are they serving? What are their numbers?”