FOX News Exclusive: Security risks identified in Defense Department program

Reporting by James Rosen

Since 2009, the Defense Department has enrolled more than 10,000 foreign-born individuals into the U.S. Armed Forces under a program called “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest,” or MAVNI.

In exchange for service, the foreigners, selected for language and other needed skills, can receive an expedited path to U.S. citizenship.

Among the program’s success stories is the Army’s soldier of the year in 2012, Sgt. Saral Shrestha of Nepal.

But lawmakers on three committees tell FOX news MAVNI has “big problems,” and that its ranks have been, quote, “compromised” due to inadequate vetting, and that some MAVNI enrollees are now unaccounted for.

“The lack of discipline in implementation of this program has created problems elsewhere,” said Republican Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma, a retired Army officer who first sounded the alarm a month ago.

FOX News has confirmed exclusively that the Pentagon Inspector General has investigated the program and issued a report—its contents still classified—evaluating the services’ compliance with security reviews for, and monitoring of, MAVNI enrollees.

“The Department of Defense is conducting a review of the MAVNI pilot program due to potential security risks associated with the program,” a spokesman told FOX.

But the Pentagon cited “pending litigation” for saying nothing more.

A lawsuit was filed in February against Defense Secretary James Mattis, in which seven MAVNI enrollees, all naturalized U.S. citizens, alleged their careers were “crippled” after DOD began restricting access to security clearances issued under MAVNI last fall.

One lawmaker told FOX News that a backlog of cases led to applicants being enrolled in the armed forces before full clearance checks had been completed. Another problem was the use of MAVNI to hire workers, like cooks, drivers and mechanics, who did not possess the specialized skills MAVNI was created to exploit.