McCollum Calls on Pentagon to Keep Its Promise Despite Security Risk

Rep. Betty McCollum tells the Pentagon to "honor these contracts."

WASHINGTON – Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum is demanding the Pentagon honor the contracts of foreign-born military recruits, despite the security risk.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported the Pentagon was considering a plan to terminate enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born military recruits. The Washington Post claimed the Defense Department was deliberately putting the recruits at risk of deportation, despite the Pentagon citing security concerns.

The foreign-born recruits, who signed contracts under the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, offer the military certain crucial skills not able to be filled by U.S.-born servicemen. In exchange, the recruits are given fast-tracked citizenship. If their contracts were terminated, many could face deportation.

The Washington Post report cites a Pentagon memo which details security concerns as a reason to cancel the contracts. According to the report, the vetting process is overloaded and a “heightened security risk” has officials recommending cancelling the remaining 1,800 enlistment contracts and putting a pause on the MAVNI program.

McCollum, one of three Democrats to speak out following the Washington Post report, seemed to ignore the apparent security risk, instead saying the Pentagon must be held accountable.

“The United States has a moral and legal obligation to recruits who have signed contracts to serve in the military, no matter where they were born,” McCollum said in a press release. “I appreciate the bipartisan concern on this issue and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find a solution that holds the Pentagon accountable and ensures it honors these contracts.”

In response to the report, McCollum offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Defense Appropriations bill during the House Appropriations Committee markup. The amendment would prevent the “Department of Defense from using any federal funds to eliminate existing enlistment contracts for recruits in the MAVNI program, except in cases where the recruit has violated the law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

McCollum’s amendment was not approved. Instead, House leaders reportedly “expressed a willingness” to work with McCollum on the issue as the bill hits the House floor.

The Pentagon has yet to confirm the memo obtained by the Washington Post.

Christine Bauman