Report on DOD Memo on Security Risks in MAVNI Program

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

Alexander J. Segal's picture

We have been posting periodic updates on the status of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Program, which was suspended for new applications in late 2016 [see article]. MAVNI is a Department of Defense (DOD) program that provided certain aliens with a path to legal status and citizenship in return for military service.

It was known that MAVNI had been suspended to assess apparent security vulnerabilities in the program. On August 1, 2017, James Rosen of Fox News reported with greater detail on the specific issues that led to the suspension of MAVNI [link].1

MAVNI Program

Rosen reports that the Inspector General of the DOD recently released a report identifying “serious problems” with the MAVNI program. Although the report remains classified, Rosen was able to glean details from various sources.

According to Congressman Steve Russell (R, OK-5), MAVNI was suspended due to the Pentagon's concerns that it has been subject to “foreign infiltration.” According to another unnamed member of Congress, the DOD has not provided answers regarding the status of the “missing enrollees” in question. Rosen's sources disclosed that the Pentagon identified additional problems regarding MAVNI in addition to the threat of foreign infiltration, such as:

  • A vetting backlog that led to the enrollment of soldiers prior to the completion of background checks; and
  • A “drift” in MAVNI criteria wherein the program was used to hire workers lacking specialized skills (e.g., cooks, drivers, and mechanics).

However, Rosen noted that there is no evidence in the public domain that “ISIS, Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist groups have penetrated the MAVNI program,” while noting that this does remain an ongoing concern for the DOD.

Given the limited information available as to the extent of the problems in the MAVNI program and the DOD's internal deliberations, it is impossible to predict whether the MAVNI program will remain in place or ultimately be terminated. It can be concluded, however, that if the security vulnerabilities have been determined to be as severe as Rosen's reporting indicates, especially with regard to foreign infiltration, the future of MAVNI is in a state of severe doubt. Rosen's sources also suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis “had developed his own concerns about MAVNI.”

Rosen also noted that there is currently pending litigation by seven MAVNI enrollees, who claim that the DOD's decision to add additional restrictions on access to security clearances in September 2016 ended up “crippling their military careers.”

We will continue to update the site with information about the status of the MAVNI program as it becomes available. While we cannot attest to the severity of the security concerns inherent in the MAVNI program, the government should eventually look to compensate those it made promises to and who were left in limbo in the event that the suspension is not lifted. Those affected should consult with an experienced immigration attorney about their overall immigration situation.

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  1. Rosen, James. “Pentagon investigators find 'security risks' in government's immigrant recruitment program, 'infiltration' feared.” Fox News. Aug. 1, 2017. Foxnews.com