Pentagon, State Department Creating New Standards to Vet Foreign Military Students

 In GDI, Defense, Sea, Infrastructure, Air, Information

U.S. and inter­na­tion­al flags rep­re­sent­ing coun­tries at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) fly during grad­u­a­tion day at NWC in Newport, R.I.

In the wake of last week’s deadly shoot­ing at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Pentagon and State Department are devel­op­ing new vet­ting pro­ce­dures for for­eign mil­i­tary mem­bers seek­ing to attend U.S. ‑based train­ing, offi­cials said on Friday.

On Dec. 6, Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Alshamrani, killed three sailors and shot others at NAS Pensacola. Alshamrani, who was attend­ing flight school at the time of the inci­dent, was also killed.

Currently, all Saudi Arabian stu­dents are restrict­ed to class­room train­ing. During a Friday con­fer­ence call with mem­bers of the media, a senior Defense Department offi­cial declined to detail addi­tion­al options being con­sid­ered to antic­i­pate poten­tial risks posed by prospec­tive for­eign mil­i­tary stu­dents.

“The train­ing and edu­ca­tion of for­eign mil­i­tary per­son­nel in the United States is one of our most effec­tive secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion tools,” Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the direc­tor of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said during the media con­fer­ence call.

The Saudi gunman was one of more than 5,100 mem­bers of for­eign mil­i­taries, rep­re­sent­ing 153 coun­tries, cur­rent­ly attend­ing flight train­ing, combat weapons sys­tems train­ing, infantry train­ing, pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment cours­es for offi­cers, or are stu­dents at the U.S. military’s under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate-level col­leges, accord­ing to the State Department.

To attend U.S.-based train­ing, for­eign mil­i­tary mem­bers first under­go three screen­ings. After an indi­vid­ual is iden­ti­fied by his or her mil­i­tary lead­er­ship to be a can­di­date for U.S.-based train­ing, an embassy-level assess­ment occurs. The assess­ment includes run­ning each candidate’s name through var­i­ous law enforce­ment and secu­ri­ty data­bas­es, the senior Defense Department offi­cial said during the call.

The can­di­date also under­goes both phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal assess­ments by a U.S.-approved med­ical pro­fes­sion­al. Finally, the can­di­date applies for a visa through a U.S. embassy, which includes the stan­dard back­ground inves­ti­ga­tions asso­ci­at­ed with all visa appli­ca­tions, accord­ing to the Defense Department offi­cial.

“What makes the U.S. approach to secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion dif­fer­ent form our near-peer com­peti­tors is that the basis of our approach isn’t the sale of goods and ser­vices but the endur­ing rela­tion­ship that comes along with it,” Hooper said. “At the heart of any defense rela­tion­ship is a human rela­tion­ship that is built and fos­tered through oppor­tunism for U.S. and for­eign mil­i­tary stu­dents to train along­side one anoth­er.”

The Pensacola inci­dent was the second shoot­ing and third deadly inci­dent on a Navy base since Dec. 3. Just days before the Pensacola shoot­ing, a shoot­ing occurred at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, killing three near Dry Dock 2 before turn­ing his gun on him­self. On Dec. 3, a gate-runner at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story crashed his vehi­cle into a Navy vehi­cle, killing a master-at-arms.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly addressed the three inci­dents and work to each facil­i­ty is doing to eval­u­ate their secu­ri­ty pro­ce­dures in his weekly mes­sage to the depart­ment.

“From these inci­dents, we must take renewed pur­pose, learn­ing where we can to ensure-greater pro­tec­tion of our assets, infor­ma­tion, infra­struc­ture, and most impor­tant­ly, Our pre­cious people. It is my expec­ta­tion that each of our facil­i­ties will review phys­i­cal secu­ri­ty and emer­gency response pro­ce­dures to min­i­mize the risk of a recur­rence,” Modly wrote in his mes­sage to the force. “And it is my expec­ta­tion that all of our people — mil­i­tary, civil­ian, and con­trac­tor — be pro­vid­ed with the train­ing, infor­ma­tion, and moti­va­tion to main­tain the vig­i­lance we must all have to spot the warn­ing signs that are often pre­cur­sors to tragedies such as these.”

Source: USNI

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