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Official Reports Progress in Awareness of Human Trafficking

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2015 — Defense Department awareness of slavery and human trafficking issues is paying off significantly because of mandatory employee training, the program manager for DoD’s Combating Trafficking in Persons program has reported.

As DoD observes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, Sam Yousef noted how annual training for DoD’s military, civilian, and contractor workforce is driving home the department’s “zero tolerance” for slavery and human trafficking.

DoD defines human trafficking as using fraud, force or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport or obtain a person for commercial sex, or labor services.

Increase in Workforce Awareness

Surveys indicate a jump in DoD workforce awareness of slavery and human trafficking issues, from 72 percent in 2008 to nearly 90 percent today, he said.

Yousef said when people hear the term human trafficking, they often relate it to sex trafficking, but he noted that DoD’s training emphasizes that people also can be susceptible to labor trafficking.

Occurring particularly overseas rather than stateside, labor trafficking has led DoD’s Combating Trafficking in Persons program to develop new specialized training for acquisition professionals.

“The training is primarily for contractor officers and contracting officer representatives” on foreign soil, Yousef said. “It gives them highlighted awareness of their responsibilities in managing contracts as they relate to human trafficking.”

Using the phrase, “If you see something, say something,” he said awareness training helps all DoD employees identify potential victims of the crime.

Common practices in labor trafficking, for example, include confiscating workers’ passports, withholding wages and creating “inhumane” living conditions.

Training Helps to Alert Employees

While such indicators might not be obvious to some, DoD’s training helps to alert employees to the potential of such scenarios, Yousef said. “You might not think much of it before you take our training,” he added. “But through increased awareness, you’re able to connect the dots a little more.”

DoD employees can file reports with the DoD Inspector General Hotline at http://www.dodig.mil/hotline or by calling 800-424-9098, 703-604-8799 or DSN 664-8799.

Leadership Plays a Role

In addition to DoD’s mandatory annual training, the military’s leadership also plays a critical awareness role in preventing such crimes, Yousef said.

The 7th Air Force in South Korea, for example, issued a policy earlier this year restricting service members from buying drinks for “juicy bar” workers and patronizing establishments that have been connected to prostitution and human trafficking, he said, adding that the policy now covers all of U.S. Forces Korea.

“It’s a very significant accomplishment,” Yousef said of the policy. “In a 2003 DoD-wide survey, we reported that 52 percent of our service members were aware of bars placed off-limits by their leadership, but in 2013 we reported it at 92 percent.”

In addition, programs with nongovernmental organizations also are increasing awareness, he noted.

One such effort will partner the Defense Health Agency with the nonprofit Polaris Project, which combats human trafficking around the world. During January in the national capital area, DHA and the Polaris Project will conduct a drive to benefit international victims of slavery and human trafficking, Yousef said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)