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DoD Fights Human Trafficking With Training, Awareness

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2004 – What President Bush referred to as a "special evil" during a 2003 address to the U.N. General Assembly was the topic of a joint hearing here today.

The House Armed Services Committee heard testimony on how the U.S. military is working to deter the patronization of prostitutes and human trafficking.

The common thread in the testimony was training. State Department representative John R. Miller and Defense Department representatives Charles Abell, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte and Joseph E. Schmitz also cited cooperation with host countries as being important in addressing the issue of human trafficking and prostitution.

Miller is director of the State Department's office that monitors and fights human trafficking; Abell is DoD's principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness; LaPorte commands U.N. and U.S. forces in Korea; and Schmitz is DoD's inspector general.

Congress opened the spotlight on the human trafficking issue with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, said Miller. The act was reauthorized in 2003.

Surveys have shown that an estimated 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international boarders each year, he said. When internal trafficking is taken into consideration, he added, the number of victims jumps into the millions.

"We are dealing here, broadly speaking, with what is emerging as a primary human rights issue of the 21st century," Miller said.

He quickly added that it is not only a human rights challenge, but also a health challenge and a major source of revenue for organized crime. He also described the practice as a national security challenge.

"Because it's a national security challenge, it relates to the task facing our military, because they are trying to create secure, stable situations in several countries in this world," he said.

Demand drives sex trafficking, Miller said. And it is the demand side of the issue that is coming under closer scrutiny. Historically, he said, national forces going from one country to another lead to increased prostitution and an increased number of trafficking victims. National forces include the military as well as peacekeepers, contractors and aid workers, he said.

To this end, DoD has taken many steps to stem U.S. national forces' participation in prostitution and human trafficking, Miller said. The DoD has declared a zero tolerance policy and is employing training to achieve that objective, and is implementing new provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that will punish the patronizing of prostitutes. There also have been steps taken in Korea, and recently NATO policy was instituted with the leadership of the United States.

In an effort to educate these groups and dissuade the practice of prostitution and human trafficking, the DoD policy on the subject is straightforward and easily understood, said Abell.

"It is a police of zero tolerance," he said. "It is a policy of command responsibility to recognize, prevent and to assist local law enforcement when it comes to trafficking in persons in any way, shape or form."

Abell said a training program has been developed and is in testing. He added that it would be distributed to the forces and the fleet in early November. Local commands will be required to adapt the program to make it more relevant. By January, the program will be available online, Abell noted.

While the DoD has always believed patronizing prostitution was prosecutable under the UCMJ, Abell said, the plan is to elevate the offense and make it more visible to the commanders. It will also make it more visible to the servicemember who might be tempted.

Laporte said the four-pronged strategy of awareness, identification, reduction and enforcement -- along with continued interaction with the Korean government -- has produced measurable results in eliminating prostitution and human trafficking adjacent to U.S. installations.

Also helping the United States move toward its goal of zero tolerance is training for all DoD personnel arriving in Korea, LaPorte said.

Other measures also have been taken, including identifying and making off- limits to U.S. personnel local businesses that support prostitution and human trafficking. Public service announcements via AFN, the Pentagon Channel and print media are also being used to get the message out. Combined with a curfew and an increased effort to provide entertainment that keeps troops on base during more of their free time, instances involving U.S. personnel have declined, LaPorte said.

"The conduct of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines as well as the Department of Defense civilians and invited contractors and their family members is of paramount importance to our command," LaPorte said. "These Americans are our nation's ambassadors, and how they behave is as much a reflection of our own national character as it is a statement of our military readiness and discipline."

Some policies are still, as Miller put it, on paper. "And they're good steps." Now, it's a matter of getting them implemented, he said.

Contact Author

Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles Abell
DoD Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz
Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, Commander, United Nations Command, Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea

Related Sites:
House Armed Services Committee
State Department

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