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Defense Department Combats Human Trafficking

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2006 – The Defense Department is strengthening its ability to combat human trafficking, a DoD official told Congress yesterday.

"Our approach to combating trafficking in persons is within the framework of the U.S. government's anti-trafficking in persons efforts of prevention, protection and prosecution," Gail H. McGinn, acting principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Military Personnel Subcommittee.

Trafficking in persons is a commercial trade where human beings are subjected to involuntary acts such as prostitution or indentured servitude, which many feel constitutes a modern form of slavery. Force, fraud and coercion are methods used by traffickers to obtain and recruit persons.

McGinn said the Defense Department is focused on two areas: the overseas sex exploitation industry near U.S. areas of operations and the employment practices of civilian contractors supporting DoD operations overseas.

"While our authorities and responsibilities fall primarily within prevention, we remain engaged in the policies and practices of U.S. government agencies, allies and multinational organizations committed to fighting trafficking," McGinn said.

The department has instituted a human trafficking awareness program as part of its efforts. The program educates DoD members on the nature of trafficking, trafficking indicators, DoD's policy on trafficking, and the legal provisions available to DoD in dealing with members of the department connected to trafficking, she said.

All military and civilian personnel deploying overseas are required to take the training, she added.

In addition, DoD has two other training products to support its anti-trafficking program. These include the commander's training module, which provides instruction specifically aimed at a commander's responsibilities within DoD's anti-trafficking program, and a law enforcement investigators module is under development.

McGinn said the department is concerned about trafficking in persons for labor purposes, and stressed that it is important that defense contractors overseas do not take advantage of trafficked labor.

The human trafficking rule contained in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation gives the overseas commander the contract management tools necessary to hold contractors accountable for their labor practices and their employees' actions, she said.

"We have modified our rule to include those labor areas that we feel are vulnerable to trafficking practices outside the United States ... supply, construction, and commercial service contracts."

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is central to enforcing the department's anti-trafficking in persons program, she said.

"We have reviewed the code in its ability to proscribe trafficking in persons," she said. "We determined that the UCMJ is fully adequate to the task of addressing the crime of trafficking in persons, and any of its associated wrongful acts, should the jurisdiction fall to the department to do so."

Evaluation is a key component of DoD's trafficking policy implementation, she said. The DoD Inspector General office is in the process of completing its first departmentwide evaluation of DoD trafficking in persons policy implementation.

"We will use their evaluation as an ongoing guide to improve our program," she said. "The steps we are taking reflect our strong commitment to address combating trafficking in persons within the scope of DoD's responsibilities."

Contact Author

Gail H. McGinn

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