Saturday, Dec 06, 2008
The Pentagon is planning to expand the number of foreigners it recruits into the military in yet another effort to make up for chronic shortages of doctors, nurses and linguists available for wartime duty.
The Defense Department already draws from aliens living in the United States on green cards and seeking permanent residency. But under a trial program, it will now look to also recruit from pools of foreigners who’ve been living in the states on student and work visas, with refugee or political asylum status and other temporary visas.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to recruit certain legal residents whose critical medical and language skills are ”vital to the national interest,” officials said, using for the first time a law passed three years ago.
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Gates’ action enables the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the states legally for at least two years. The new recruits into the armed forces would get accelerated treatment in the process toward becoming U.S. citizens in return for military service in the United States or abroad.
”The services are doing a tremendous job of recruiting quality personnel to meet our various missions,” sometimes with bonus pay and tuition for medical school, said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy. But they haven’t been able to fill their need for 24,000 doctors, dentists and nurses in the Defense Department.