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Human Trafficking: How We Can Recognize and Combat It

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DOD has a program office dedicated to Combating Trafficking in Persons. The CTIP program is designed to prevent human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons. The majority of the men and women in the armed services are proud to serve and they serve honorably. But the Defense Department is a society within a society, and like any other, DOD’s society has the good and bad, along with some ugly. While the good far outweighs the bad, the few bad members who engage with trafficking in persons tarnish DOD’s good reputation.

In 2002, some media outlets alleged instances of trafficking in persons near DOD military bases in South Korea, accusing the military of contributing to sex trafficking of women and children. The media alleged the military in Korea provided an “unquenchable demand” for prostitutes and the leadership turned a blind eye, condoning the sex trade industry. Upon release of the news story, U.S. Forces Korea leaders took immediate action, developing trafficking in persons awareness training and a prevention program to stop USFK personnel from creating the demand for commercial sex.

In January 2004, the deputy secretary of defense issued a policy memorandum mandating support by commanders for the U.S. government’s “zero tolerance policy” for trafficking in persons. In September 2004, the secretary of defense reinforced the statements in the memorandum by directing DOD and commanders to:

Establish a systematic method to evaluate anti-trafficking in persons efforts;
Ensure DOD personnel are trained to recognize trafficking in persons indicators; and
Use all tools available to combat trafficking in persons
In October 2005, patronizing a prostitute was made a specific chargeable offense for service members under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the U.S. military's statutory criminal law. Demand for commercial sex drives the sex trafficking industry and by making it a criminal offense, DOD is striving to end demand. This offense provides commanders another tool in maintenance of good order and discipline, in support of DOD’s program to combat trafficking in persons.


In 2005, the DOD inspector general confirmed media allegations of multiple abuses committed by defense contractors or subcontractors employing third country national workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses were indicative of trafficking in persons, such as withholding workers' passports and deceptive hiring practices. The commander of Multinational Forces Iraq implemented an order that all contractors stop withholding employee passports, provide employees a signed copy of their work contract, and require contractors and subcontractors to use certified recruiting firms.

DOD is the nation’s largest employer of contractors in the U.S. and overseas, making labor trafficking a high risk for the department. In 2006, DOD was the first federal agency to require a clause in defense contracts prohibiting trafficking in persons. In 2009, the Federal Acquisition Regulation implemented FAR 22.1705, and its associated contract clause, FAR 52.222-50, Combating Trafficking in Persons, by mandating its inclusion in federal contracts. In 2012, the president published Executive Order 13627, which seeks to strengthen protections against human trafficking in federal contracting. The DOD inspector general published the results of reports in 2010, 2012, and 2014, addressing actions required to ensure contractor compliance. The federal acquisition regulation reinforced the trafficking in persons clauses in 2015 as prescribed in Executive Order 13627, requiring contractors to develop a compliance plan and to make employees aware of their rights.

A major goal of the DOD Combating Trafficking in Persons program is to educate every member of DOD about trafficking in persons — a duty that DOD takes seriously as with other situations that bring harm to our nation. Trafficking destroys lives and poses a threat to national security.

The department published DOD Instruction 2200.01 “Combating Trafficking in Persons” in 2007 and revised it in 2010 and 2015. The instruction assigns roles and responsibilities to DOD Components.


What’s the bottom line? DOD takes an aggressive stand against all activities that may contribute to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons.

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