Pentagon expanding number of aliens recruited
By PAULINE JELINEK
Dec 6, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) The Pentagon is planning to expand the number of
foreigners it recruits into the military in yet another effort to
make up for chronic shortages of doctors, nurses and linguists
available for wartime duty.
The Defense Department already draws from aliens living in the United
States on green cards and seeking permanent residency. But under a
trial program, it will now look to also recruit from pools of
foreigners who've been living in the states on student and work
visas, with refugee or political asylum status and other temporary visas.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized the Army, Navy, Air
Force and Marine Corps to recruit certain legal residents whose
critical medical and language skills are "vital to the national
interest," officials said, using for the first time a law passed
three years ago.
Gates' action enables the services to start a one-year pilot program
to find up to 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the states legally
for at least two years. The new recruits into the armed forces would
get accelerated treatment in the process toward becoming U.S.
citizens in return for military service in the United States or abroad.
"The services are doing a tremendous job of recruiting quality
personnel to meet our various missions," sometimes with bonus pay and
tuition for medical school, said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of
defense for military personnel policy. But they haven't been able to
fill their need for 24,000 doctors, dentists and nurses in the
The Pentagon's doctor and nurse corps remain 1,000 short of the
numbers needed to treat all the military's patients, and Carr said he
hoped the program would fill the gaps.
The military's most pressing need is for neurosurgeons and
dermatologists to treat troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan
with brain and burn injuries.
The force also lacks nurses with a broad range of specialties, Carr said.
At the same time, the U.S. Special Operations Command needs more
people with special language and cultural skills for a war on
terrorism that has taken the armed forces to more remote places
across the globe.
Though the military has been looking for more Arabic speakers and
others to help with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new program
looks to recruit those proficient in some three dozen languages,
including Albanian, Korean, Punjabi, Somali, Turkish, Burmese,
Chinese, Czech, Malay and Swahili
There are now 29,000 non-citizens in uniform today, Carr said, with
about 8,000 more enlisting every year.
He expects that among those who will be interested in the new effort
are doctors with work visas who are employed at hospitals around the
country, a program aimed at tackling shortages among U.S. medical
Pentagon says it needs more foreign recruits
Will offer road to citizenship for up to 1,000
By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / December 6, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon announced yesterday that it will recruit as
many as 1,000 foreigners living in the United States on temporary
visas - including to study or work - in an unprecedented effort to
fill critical shortages of medical personnel and foreign-language specialists.
The year-long experiment, approved by Secretary of Defense Robert M.
Gates, was determined "vital to the national interest" at a time when
the military is meeting its overall quotas but lacks sufficient
numbers of doctors and nurses to treat wounded troops and needs more
troops with foreign-language skills to help navigate diverse cultures.
The US military has long accepted noncitizens who are permanent
residents of the United States and hold green cards. The new effort,
which has been under consideration for several years, allows the
Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force to tap into the thousands of
foreigners studying in the United States temporarily as legal aliens.
"The bottom line is that the Department of Defense has a critical
need for qualified healthcare professionals and people with language
and associated culture capabilities," said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon
spokeswoman. "Legal aliens have enriched our forces by supporting our
nation in previous wars, and their unique backgrounds are especially
valuable in today's global war on terror."
There are about 29,000 noncitizens serving in the military in return
for expedited citizenship. Some national security leaders have been
wary of opening the ranks to more foreigners, fearing what Max Boot,
a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, calls a
Boot, who has long advocated recruiting more qualified noncitizens
into the military, said yesterday's announcement is a good start.
"It is a recognition of there are a lot of people who want to serve
who could make a significant contribution," Boot said. "We need
soldiers who can interact and understand local populations without a
translator. I wish the program were larger, but I am glad they are at
least opening the door a crack and hope it will open more in the future."
Gates, who President-elect Barack Obama announced this week will stay
on as defense secretary, is using special authority granted in a 2005
law that some outside groups have criticized, saying the Pentagon
would essentially be using mercenaries to defend the country, could
jeopardize national security, or at the very least reflect poorly on
Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.
But top Pentagon officials have concluded that the need for medical
personnel and linguists fluent in 35 languages including Arabic,
Hindi, Farsi, and Somali is too important to pass up a willing pool
of highly qualified foreigners who want to earn their citizenship
through military service. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, nearly 43,000 have become citizens while in the military.
The Army in particular has had trouble recruiting medical
professionals in recent years, including missing its goals for
applicants for medical and dental scholarships in exchange for
military service. The Air Force has blamed less pay in the military
than the private sector and a more stressful work environment.
A variety of innovative programs to beef up the ranks have helped,
but not enough to fill the requirement for 24,000 medical
professionals across the armed forces, officials said yesterday.
To be eligible under the program, applicants must have lived legally
in the United States for at least two years as a refugee, asylum
seeker, or under other so-called "temporary protected status," or
have been in the United States for the same period on a student or
work visa. They must have also have traveled outside the United
States no more than 90 days in the two years prior to enlistment,
according to a Defense Department fact sheet on the program.
The medical personnel accepted under the program would be required to
serve at least three years on active duty and foreign language
specialists would be required to serve four years.
Thomas Donnelly, a military specialist at the conservative American
Enterprise Institute, said the move, first reported by the Associated
Press, has larger implications than simply helping the Pentagon.
"It helps to bring mainstream acceptance of what the aspirations of
pretty much all immigrants are," Donnelly said. "It is hard to think
of anything that is more obviously patriotic than military service,
particularly in wartime. This will help reframe the immigration
debate in a constructive way."
Bryan Bender can be reached at email@example.com.
Visa-holders sought as military recruits
December 29, 2008
By ZEKE MINAYA
The U.S. military has launched a pilot program to recruit a limited
number of medical professionals and speakers of certain languages
among temporary visa-holders.
The armed forces already draw recruits among immigrants with green
cards. But in an effort to fill the chronically short-handed ranks of
doctors, nurses and linguists, the Pentagon will look to those on
student and work visas as well as foreigners with refugee or
political asylum status.
The military is falling about 1,000 short of its need for 24,000
doctors, dentists and nurses, military officials said.
"The program is designed to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills
are considered to be vital to the national interest," Lt. Col. Les'
Melnyk, a Pentagon spokesman, said during a telephone interview. The
program would apply to foreigners who have lived legally in the
United States for more than two years.
Participants would have an accelerated path to U.S. citizenship in
exchange for their service. The pilot program, which is capped at
1,000 recruits nationwide, will be evaluated after a year.
According to military officials, the branches of the military are
considering how to proceed with the new program. It is likely most
military recruiters in the field have not yet been told how to
proceed with the program, Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said
during a telephone interview.
"The military services are determining their needs and then they will
develop their implementation plan," Lainez said.
The languages sought by the military are not in the Romance language
group such as Spanish, French or Italian. The new program is seeking
speakers of more than two dozen languages, including many Asian
languages as well as Arabic, Hungarian and Kurdish.
Evans Chen, a Taiwan native fluent in Mandarin Chinese and a student
of political science at UC Riverside, said the program sounded interesting.
Chen, who holds a temporary visa, said he could see the program
attracting international students who have completed their studies
and are seeking a way to stay in the United States.
"For international students there is one year after graduation to get
a job to stay in the States," Chen said. He said it would likely be
difficult, however, to attract students in the lucrative medical
field even with the lure of preferential treatment in the immigration process.
According to a Defense Department news release, non-citizens have
served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. About 29,000
non-citizens currently serve in the U.S. military with roughly 8,000
permanent resident aliens enlisting each year.
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W.
Bush signed a 2002 executive order that allowed for expedited
naturalization of non-citizens who join the military during wartime.
Reach Zeke Minaya at 951-368-9539 or zminaya@PE.com
Temporary visa-holders with medical or language skills sought by the
Languages: More than two dozen tongues needed, including Arabic,
Hindi and Russian
Medical professionals: Doctors and nurses in demand
Recruits: Pilot program is capped at 1,000 participants.
Information: E-mail the Defense Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: U.S. Department of Defense