Friday, October 13, 2017

13,700 DoD Personnel Respond to Hurricane Maria Relief Effort

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2017 — About 13,700 Defense Department personnel are now in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria ravaged the region three weeks ago, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today.

DoD, supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is focused on temporary power restoration; food, water, fuel and power generator distribution; medical support; route clearance; aviation support and repair of the fragile Guajataca Dam, he said.

U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has the DoD lead in disaster response and relief efforts in both U.S. territories. Davis said the command has deployed food, water and key DoD capabilities, including elements of the 633rd Expeditionary Medical Support hospital to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

The number of aircraft deployed to the U.S. territories totals 92 rotary-wing and 19 fixed-wing airplanes, he noted. A key incident support base distribution hub for the western region of Puerto Rico also has been set up in Aguadilla, the spokesman said.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort is providing medical support operations in Aguadilla. Elements of the 14th Combat Support Hospital are arriving in Humacao, where the hospital is scheduled to open tomorrow, Davis said.

U.S. Transportation Command has aeromedical evacuation assets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for patients who require moves to hospitals stateside.

DoD personnel have installed 81 generators on the island and provided 273 of 423 generator inspections prior to installation, he said.

Route Clearance

Service members are progressing in clearing routes from storm damage, and the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command is taking the lead for water production near Guajataca Dam, Davis said.

Defense Logistics Agency personnel are charged with delivering 2.5 million meals each day through Nov. 5, he said.

All elements of the 575th Area Support Medical Company have arrived in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Davis said, and a mobile medical center is expected to be fully operational by tomorrow.

DoD Announces Policies Affecting Foreign Nationals Entering Military

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2017 — The Defense Department is releasing two policies that will affect foreign nationals entering the military or who are already in the military, Stephanie Miller, DoD's chief of accessions, said today.

The changes will affect the MAVNI pilot program -- the acronym stands for Military Accessions Vital to National Interest -- and green card holders seeking to enter the military. A green card is a permanent residency document for the United States.

The changes place "the highest emphasis on security and suitability screening with all current and prospective service members, as well as the value of military service, in receiving U.S. citizenship," Miller said.

One policy change is to the initial security and suitability screening for green card holders. "Effective immediately, all green card holders must complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military suitability determination prior to entering any component of the armed forces," Miller said in an interview.

Previously, green card holders could ship to basic military training as long as background investigations were initiated. Green card holders go through the same check as American citizens.

The change will mean that green card holders entering the military may be in the delayed entry program longer than in the past, due to a backlog for security clearances at the Office of Personnel Management, OPM officials said.

The clearance procedure could take up to a year.

Qualifying Service Standard

The second change affects those in the MAVNI program and green card holders. "We're establishing a qualifying service standard for the purposes of rendering honorable service determination for foreign nationals so they can pursue expedited U.S. citizenship," Miller said.

All service members receive a characterization of service after serving 180 days. "In order for foreign nationals to achieve expedited citizenship on the basis of their military service, they must receive an honorable service recommendation," Miller said. The practice of the department had been to grant that determination after "as little a few days in boot camp," she added.

Aligning Requirement for Citizens, Noncitizens

The new policy aligns the requirement of honorable service with that for U.S. citizens. "We will not grant a characterization of service until 180 days," Miller said. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for us to wait to give a characterization of service for everybody else at 180 days, but for non-U.S. citizens, we would be granting a characterization well short of 180 days."

So, like U.S. citizens, foreign nationals must complete basic military training and serve to 180 days for a characterization of service determination.

Those in the reserve components must finish basic military training and have one satisfactory federal year. "The individual drilled successfully, he achieved all of his points, he did his two weeks of annual training and achieved one good federal year," Miller explained. "At that time, the department would render that person's service as honorable, and then the department would sign the form that he would include in the information packet for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services."

The department is changing these policies because some individuals received citizenship before background investigations were completed, Miller said. "We believe it is in the national interest that we need to complete the security investigation before we grant someone honorable service," she added.

This affects some personnel in the service now who received certification before their security screenings were completed. The department is nullifying those certifications, and will recertify once the investigations are successfully completed, Miller said.

Representatives of Mediterranean Nations Discuss Regional Security Issues

By James E. Brooks George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Oct. 13, 2017 — More than 30 diplomats, academics and military officials from the Mediterranean region gathered Sept. 25-28 in Rome to examine the shared responsibility nations have for security at a conference hosted by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

"The purpose of this Middle East-North Africa workshop was to share viewpoints on the shared responsibility and comprehensive security through partnerships around the Mediterranean Sea," said Dr. Petra Weyland, Marshall Center professor of Middle Eastern affairs.

"When partners put their understandings of shared responsibility in security matters on the table -- when they share their thoughts, experiences and dedication to achieve security -- then true communities of interest become a reality. Then common efforts to achieve more security for all become much more effective," Weyland said.

German-American Partnership

The Marshall Center plans, develops and conducts more than 100 nonresident events like this one each year. In October 2016, U.S. and German defense officials signed a new memorandum of agreement increasing Germany's role at the center and increasing their investment in the center's programs with personnel and funds.

One of the focus areas for Germany's defense minister is the Middle East-North Africa region and the threats of terrorism, regional conflicts and government instability in North Africa facing southern Europe. While the Marshall Center has a traditional geographic focus on Europe, its sister organizations, the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, typically take the lead for programs involving Africa.

Organizers say the Marshall Center workshop was facilitated by Germany's increased focus on Mediterranean tran-regional security challenges.

"This event was successfully implemented based on Germany's increased contributions and political direction. We were glad to have the Africa Center for Strategic Studies associate professor of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, Dr. Benjamin Nickels, be a part of our workshop. This shows good cooperation between the two organizations," Weyland said.

Regional Security

The three-day Middle East-North Africa workshop featured a series of moderated discussions. Participants had the opportunity to learn how others from different nations in the region as well as from different career fields viewed security in the region, the role of parliamentarians and politicians, culture, history and more.

"More than half of the participants were women, and the discussion oftentimes came to the role of gender in security -- the fact that security oftentimes means different things to men and women living around the Mediterranean. And this came in a very natural way, and without having the topic inscribed in the agenda," Weyland said.

Col. Stefan Nievelstein, a military attache at the German Embassy in Rome, stressed the importance of these discussions with all partners in the Mediterranean region.

"Today's challenges with regard to our common security often have their roots in this wider Mediterranean region. For sure, the solutions to the current migration crisis lie within this region. Exchanging views and perspectives, sharing or combining of efforts, and striving for common solutions are imperative, given the scope of the challenge. We have to combine our work across the board to include political, economic, security and defense policies -- the comprehensive approach which will pave the way -- as there is no single-service solution," Nievelstein said.

Future Meeting

Organizers said the post-conference surveys focused on specific topics the participants wanted to discuss in more detail at a later conference.

"Participants largely narrowed down their interests into three main topics:  preventing and countering the foreign fighter threat through education programs, conflict resolution through diplomatic actions, and preventing conflict," Weyland said. "Within three workshop days, a very ambitious community of interest saw the light.

"It may very well make its voice heard in Mediterranean security matters in the future," Weyland continued, "and the Marshall Center should do everything possible to help this community to thrive. This development and the topics suggested by the group will help the Marshall Center strengthen existing resident programs such as our Seminar on Regional Security Studies and European Security Seminar-South."
Exact dates and details of the follow-on workshop are in the early stages, but the initiative continues to have strong support from the German Defense Ministry as well as the Marshall Center. Organizers said Tunisia's Education Ministry indicated support for hosting the next conference.