articles and commentaries are provided courtesy
of DefenseWatch, the official magazine
for Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT), a grass-roots
educational organization started by a small
group of concerned veterans and citizens to
inform the public, the Congress, and the media
on the decline in readiness of our armed forces.
Inspired by the outspoken idealism of retired
David Hackworth, SFTT aims to give our
service people, veterans, and retirees a clear
voice with the media, Congress, the public
and their services.
Every now and then, I read or hear something that just stops me dead in my tracks. Sometimes I break out in laughter, sometimes I scream out in anguish, and sometimes I break down and feel like crying.
On rare occasions, I find myself with all those reactions. On very rare occasions, those reactions are almost lost in a cacophony of a multitude of rapid-fire involuntary reactions that include pride, relief, anger, frustration, motivation, inspiration and blatant disbelief. An article in The Denver Post on Feb. 24 that the U.S. military does not know the citizenship status of 16,031 active-duty military personnel provided me with my latest "very rare occasion."
In a recent article ("The Illegal Immigration Threat," DefenseWatch,
Jan. 14, 2004), I talked about a 19-year old illegal alien who used
a bogus green card to enlist in the Army,
and how the Army was going to help facilitate getting him citizen
status. (The Army's efforts did result in that soldier being sworn
in as a U.S. citizen.) Little did I know at the time that that soldier
was literally just the latest tip on a monolithic iceberg.
Let me share with you excerpts from the Denver Post article and my varied reactions to them:
The Denver Post article reported:
"[T]he citizenship of 16,031 members of the Army,
is listed as 'unknown.' That's about one in 100 active-duty military
members who might be U.S. citizens, legal immigrants - or just about
Reaction: I am stunned, completely dumbfounded. I do not know what is worse:
the fact that we have so many "unknowns" serving, or that they are
serving despite the fact that we apparently have reasonably accurate
statistics about them.
Think about the logic trail for a moment. For each case, someone knew
enough about the individual to decide that he or she was an "unknown,"
someone had to enter the "unknown" data into some sort of database,
someone had to be responsible for gathering that data, someone had
to need that data for some reason (or else why would we track the
data in the first place?), so someone had to see these staggering
"unknown" totals, yet nobody apparently cared enough about the potential
threat of these "unknowns" in our post-9/11
world until the Denver Post reporter showed up and found out. Continuing:
"U.S. military officials say they are shoring up defenses against illegal immigrants and others who may misrepresent themselves and join the armed services."
Reaction: If we are "shoring up defenses," that means that
we recognize a vulnerability in our systems. Who came up with these
systems in the first place? Who had the position, authority, and responsibility
for the integrity of those systems? Why was not anything done about
a serious problem that has been around for a long, long time? Continuing
"The Army has the highest number of unknowns - 9,055. The Navy has 6,531, the Air Force 444, the Marines one. Overall, 1,366,032 U.S. citizens and 35,662 legal immigrants serve in the U.S. military."
Reaction: As a career Marine officer, I am damn proud that the Marine Corps
only has one "unknown" (which is one too many) and for the fact that
the Corps has met its recruiting goals for over 100 straight months.
I am also scared and disgusted to read how the U.S. military has enough
"unknowns" to man a standard Marine division. The article goes on:
"The case of an Army private from Mexico, who enlisted
using a fake green card and then served in Iraq,
suggests some of the unknowns could be illegal immigrants. The military
has no set procedure for handling these cases. U.S. congressional
leaders are looking into the matter ... Some experts see a security
risk. Military officials say they've had few problems so far, but
the 9/11 terrorist attacks raised concerns."
Reaction: I believe it is safe to say that at least some of the unknowns
are illegal immigrants. The military does have a set procedure for
handling illegal and fraudulent enlistments; it is called discharge
proceedings. I do not consider myself an expert, and I hope we do
not need experts to see a security risk of having undocumented persons
in our military ranks. Lastly, someone needs to fire those military
officials whose concerns after the 9/11-raised terrorist attacks have
resulted in only identifying an unacceptable amount of "unknowns"
in our ranks. Then the article notes:
"Military officials check birth certificates, green cards
or Social Security numbers to verify whether new recruits are legally
in the country, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a U.S. Defense
Department spokeswoman ... 'We hope to enhance those in the future,
and are looking to do that in coordination with other government
agencies,' she said. 'We want to make the process better.' Among
new military initiatives: Start checking Social Security numbers
given by recruits - as diligent employers sometimes do."
Reaction: How can someone have the guts to say that what we are doing allows
us to "verify whether new recruits are legally in the country," when
we have over 16,000 "unknown" service members already? I am sure glad
to be part of a 21st century transforming military that comes up with
such out-of-the-box security ideas like becoming more like diligent
civilian employers and actually start checking Social Security numbers
given by recruits! Maybe we can also just ask the recruits if they
are illegal aliens. But, I wonder if that is a violation of another
"Don't ask, don't tell" policy. The article continues:
"Data on citizenship in the military, provided by the
Army, comes from September 2003. Military officials were unable
to explain why the citizenship of so many is hazy. 'Of the number
we have that are unknowns, I'm sure that some are citizens and some
may not be citizens,' said Lt. Col. Stan Heath, spokesman for the
U.S. Army Human Resources Command ... 'We just don't know' how many
may be illegal, Heath said. 'We're trying to clean up the database
to make sure we have a good accountability. We are working on it.'
He downplayed security worries. 'I haven't heard of any incident where a soldier of unknown origin has done something to be concerned about.'"
Reaction: Why talk to an Army spokesman about how "unknowns" get into the
Army, instead of talking to a Marine spokesman about how "unknowns"
do not get into the Marine Corps? If the reporter recognized "unknowns"
as an issue that needed to be reported on, why did he choose to focus
more on the problem vice the solution? I am sorry, but I now have
absolutely no respect for the incompetent U.S. Army Human Resources
Command. Lastly, Lt. Col. Heath's complacency about the potential
threat posed by undocumented persons in the United States is eerily
reminiscent of the mindset that helped permit the 9/11 attacks against
our homeland. The article then states:
"Illegal immigrants are common in the United States -
the government estimates there are more than 8 million - and institutions
struggle to adapt. U.S. law bars employers from knowingly hiring
the undocumented ... Yet 'with regard to homeland security and terrorism,
it's pretty obvious that this is a critical kind of position. You
should want to know the status of who is serving in the military'
[said immigration scholar Noah Pickus, director of the Institute
for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University]."
Reaction: Yeah, I feel real secure knowing there are more than 8 million
illegal aliens in my country. Well, Mr. Pickus gets my M.O.T.O. award
(Master Of The Obvious) for seeing the connection between illegal
aliens and homeland security. In case anyone was wondering, you do
not need any advanced degrees from any university, nor should you
have to consider the threat to homeland security from illegal aliens
as an "emerging issue." The article then reveals:
"U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials defer to the military in handling illegal immigrants. 'If a military branch decides not to prosecute an individual for fraudulent entry, then they are considered eligible' to become citizens, Homeland Security spokesman Chris Bentley said."
Reaction: The law bars employers from knowingly hiring the undocumented,
but does it allow employers to continue to keep the undocumented on
their payrolls after they discover their illegal status? I learn something
new every day: I did not know the military was in the decision-making
process for immigration issues. When Homeland Security Secretary Tom
Ridge talks about the need for increased cooperation among federal,
state and local agencies to increase our homeland security, I do not
think he had envisioned such "helpful" cooperation. The article continues:
"By May, military officials should begin new checks on
the immigration status of recruits, said Gaylan Johnson, spokesman
for the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command... In the future,
recruiters will conduct 'prescreening.' Then other federal authorities
will conduct background reviews including electronic cross-checking
of names and Social Security numbers with the federal Social Security
administration, Johnson said... A better system has been in the
works 'for years,' he said. 'It got accelerated after 9/11.' "
Reaction: In my opinion, the "future" Mr. Johnson described should already
be history. Yeah, 9/11 really accelerated his "better system." And
to think I thought it was slow.