Military Recruits Non-citizen Health Care Workers, Linguists
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2008 The Defense Department has launched a year-long pilot program to recruit about 1,000 non-U.S. citizen health care workers and language and cultural specialists for service in America’s military, a senior DoD official said here today.
The new program targets people who don’t have “green cards” but do have visas and work permits. Those the military hopes to attract legally live and work in the United States and have capabilities highly valued by the military, Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.
“These are going to be people that are legally present in the United States [and] have been here for years,” Carr said.
People sought for the program include doctors, nurses, other health care professionals and those proficient in certain foreign languages and associated cultures, according to a DoD news release issued today.
The U.S. military services sign up about 8,000 foreign nationals annually, Carr said, and about 29,000 non-citizens serve in the U.S. military today. Non-citizen servicemembers normally possess a State Department-issued green card that authorizes them to live and work in the United States.
The pilot program is designed to assist the Defense Department in maintaining its requirement of about 24,000 doctors, dentists and nurses for the military services, Carr said.
“In those areas, combined, we’re short almost 1,000 [people] against that 24,000 base, divided equally between physicians and nurses,” Carr said. All nursing specialties are needed, as well as neural surgeons, family practitioners, dermatologists and some other specialties.
Past accession programs failed to attract enough medical practitioners and linguists, Carr said, so the department decided to focus on foreign nationals.
“We observed there are tens of thousands of health professionals in the United States on a work visa who would be very interested in achieving green card status or, ultimately, citizenship,” Carr said.
The pilot program provides successful applicants with a way to accelerate achievement of U.S. citizenship, Carr said, with the proviso that “they’re willing to serve in our time of need to fulfill a vital national interest.” Applicants are required to commit to specified periods of military service.
Applicants also will undergo security screenings and meet the same high standards required for every other person entering the military today, Carr said. Foreign nationals, he said, have provided exemplary military service throughout American history.
“If this program succeeds, it will leave us with a stronger medical care capacity, particularly in skills we’re short of,” Carr said, as well as providing much-needed linguists and cultural specialists.