Combating human trafficking is a responsibility the Defense Department takes very seriously, Anthony M. Kurta, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, he added. “It not only destroys the lives of those victimized, but also destroys countless families and poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the entire world.”
Kurta spoke at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day seminar in the Pentagon. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Those who engage in human trafficking exploit the weak and the vulnerable and capitalize on those who patronize the sex-trade industry and those involved in forced labor, Kurta said.
Aggressive Stance in DoD
For those reasons, DoD is committed to continuing its aggressive stance against human trafficking, he said, and will further training its personnel to expand awareness.
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DoD to Continue Joint Training Exercises for Anti-Trafficking
“Going forward, the department will continue to partner with the Joint Staff and our combatant commands … to conduct joint training exercises that include trafficking in persons scenarios that help ensure our total force understands their role in preventing, recognizing and reporting trafficking in persons incidents,” he said.
In addition to joint training exercises, DoD will continue to invest in and develop a variety of robust training resources to help educate its total force to combat trafficking in persons, Kurta said.
Such training also will include specialized training for DoD law enforcement and acquisition professionals, in addition to toolkits to assist leaders in developing their specialized training, he added.
R&D Has Critical Role
And while training and awareness are critical to educate the total force, so is research and development, Kurta said, adding that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently received a presidential award for its development of a program that searches the deep web and connects open-source information to identify tracking patterns.
Known as Memex, the program is being leveraged today by U.S. law enforcement and military and intelligence entities to dismantle human trafficking enterprises and bring traffickers to justice, he said.
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DoD Highlights Partnerships to Combat Human Trafficking
“Additionally, our Special Operations Command, partnered with the National Association to Protect Children and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations to establish the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps,” Kurta said.
Known as HERO, the group trains wounded, ill and injured service members in high-tech forensic and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation, he explained. HERO exemplifies the power of public-private partnerships to help combat trafficking in persons, Kurta said.
Kurta quoted from the proclamation declaring January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month: “There is no place in our world to allow modern slavery to persist,” he said. “We will do our part to strive for its total abolition.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)