[lg policy] US: Thriving Military Recruitment Program Blocked
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Fri Jan 22 15:30:05 UTC 2010
January 22, 2010
Thriving Military Recruitment Program Blocked
By JULIA PRESTON
A highly successful program by the armed forces to recruit skilled
immigrants who live in this country temporarily has run into a
roadblock, leaving thousands of potential recruits in limbo.
The Army stopped accepting applications for the program last week,
officials said Thursday, because the Pentagon had not completed a
review required to keep the recruitment going.
The program, which started as a pilot in February, allowed recruiters
to enlist immigrants, most of them in the Army, with special language
or medical skills who are in this country on temporary visas.
Successful recruits are offered the chance to become United States
citizens within a few months.
More than 1,000 immigrants have been enlisted through the program, and
hundreds more, at least, are in the final stages of approval, Army
officials said. More than 14,000 immigrants have contacted Army
recruiters to see if they qualified for the program and have passed a
first level of vetting, the officials said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the program had “generated interest” but
still had to be evaluated “along many performance dimensions.” After
the pilot phase formally ends next month, the Defense Department will
“review the results to determine if the program warrants further
consideration,” said the spokeswoman, Eileen M. Lainez.
Although the program has started small, senior commanders have praised
it as an exceptional success. Recruiting officials said it had
attracted a large number of unusually qualified candidates, including
doctors, dentists and native speakers of Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi,
Korean and other languages from strategic regions where United States
forces are operating.
“We don’t see this normally; the quality for this population is off
the charts,” said Lt. Col. Pete Badoian, a strategic planner at the
Army Accessions Command, the recruiting branch of the Army.
Set up to run through the end of 2009, and to accept 1,000 recruits,
with 890 coming from the Army, the program was extended after the Army
filled its slots. The Pentagon extended the program through February
by adding 120 new positions, but the Army filled those by Jan. 14,
according to a notice posted on the Web site for the program, known in
the military by the acronym Mavni (Military Accessions Vital to
Other than the salaries of staff members who ran the program, the
Pentagon spent no money on it, recruiting officials said.
The immigrants who have joined the Army through the program scored, on
average, about 20 points higher (on a scale of 100) than other
recruits on basic armed forces entry tests, and they had three to five
years more education, Colonel Badoian said. One-third of the recruits
have a master’s degree or higher.
Naomi Verdugo, a senior recruiting official in the Army’s office for
manpower and reserve affairs, said the immigrants recruited for their
language skills had also shown “extraordinarily high” proficiency in
their languages. “We send people to language school, but it is tough
to get a non-native speaker to the level of these folks,” she said.
The program is open to immigrants who have lived in the United States
for at least two years with temporary visas related to their jobs, or
as refugees. Most temporary immigrants have already demonstrated to
immigration authorities that they have technology, science or medical
skills. The program is not open to illegal immigrants.
Under the program, recruits with language skills must agree to enlist
for at least four years of active duty, while medical professionals
must agree to at least three years.
Field officers took notice of the program soon after it started. In
Congressional testimony in June, Admiral Eric T. Olson, the senior
commander for Special Operations, said it had “already demonstrated a
great success,” based on the skills of the interpreters who had signed
Officials familiar with the immigrant program said that in order to
obtain visas, temporary immigrants must pass several criminal and
terrorism background checks. An additional security questionnaire has
been part of the enlistment process, the officials said.
The prospect of speedy naturalization is a powerful draw for many
temporary immigrants, who might otherwise have to wait a decade or
more to become United States citizens. So far, 129 recruits have been
sworn in as American citizens, Colonel Badoian said, including one
dentist whose naturalization was completed in 30 days. Last year
Congress gave immigration authorities $5 million for military
News of the program spread among immigrants mainly by word of mouth.
“Because we are now getting the naturalizations and having guys finish
their training and move out as U.S. citizens, the word is getting out
and the program is gaining momentum,” Colonel Badoian said.
Recruiting officials said they were waiting for senior readiness
officials in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to
approve an extension of the program. They said the Pentagon’s review
might have been slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security
procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Tex.,
in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.
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