The MAVNI Memo

February 9, 2018 9:38 am
by David Jakeman

Since winter 2016, the highly popular MAVNI program has been under review and closed indefinitely. That has left would-be applicants as well as those who have signed enlistment contracts scouring the internet for any clues as to when the program might reopen. There were some hopeful noises from military officials during a question and answer forum they held in the spring, but in June, The Washington Post received a memo that certainly dampened the enthusiasm of MAVNI hopefuls.

Bad News from the MAVNI Memo

The memo bluntly recommendeds that MAVNI be discontinued. Not only discontinued, but that those who had already signed enlistment contracts and were awaiting orders for basic training be informed that those contracts were cancelled, potentially exposing at least a thousand people to deportation instead of deployment because their status had lapsed.

There is no date on the memo, and it is unclear how it has been received by top military brass. Nevertheless, the memo is helpful in illuminating how military officials are thinking and what they are debating.

The military has been reconsidering the mission risk MAVNIs might present. It concludes that although more stringent screening has been implemented which is certainly better than previous protocols, they could not say “with a high degree of confidence” that the screenings were sufficient. 1 In addition, the increased vetting had diverted military resources from other endeavors.

Although the memo concludes that MAVNI is not secure as presently implemented, it does state that the military will implement what it has learned from the program in a “follow-on program” that ensures that the military still has access to people with vital skills it needs but cannot find in the citizen population.

Also mentioned is the fact that the military anticipates legal challenges from its discontinuance of MAVNI. It accordingly recommends framing and writing the protocols very carefully to survive any potential lawsuits.

Four MAVNI Categories

The memo includes an enclosure, 2 which delineates four MAVNI categories and a risk assessment of each group. The first group was given the highest risk. These are military personnel who largely live and work on bases, but they have not undergone the heightened screening now required, including the SSBI (Single Scope Background Investigation) and the CI/S (Counter Intelligence/Security). The memo recommends continuing to screen them as well as put them under continuous monitoring.

The second and largest group was rated moderate to high risk. These personnel have undergone SSBI but not CI/S. Some of them have access to classified information. The memo states that although they should undergo CI/S screening, since many are now naturalized citizens, the military cannot order the additional screening without individual cause.

The third and fourth groups were rated moderate to lowest risk, because they are intending to be reservists or active-duty but are currently in delayed entry programs while they undergo enhanced screening. The memo recommends cancelling their enlistment contracts and directing the resources that would have been used to complete their screenings to complete the vetting of the first two groups, which are higher priority.

The immigration consequences of canceling contracts could be devastating to personnel in the delayed entry programs. For some of them, their visas have expired while they have been waiting to do basic training. Having their contracts cancelled could potentially expose them to deportation. This would be without precedent, as immigration attorneys from Albuquerque to Tacoma understand.

The silver lining in the memo is that the military obviously sees the need for people with certain skills that cannot be adequately provided from among the citizen population. A careful reading of the memo suggests that although MAVNI might be on its way out, there will still be a place for skilled non-immigrants who want to serve in the armed forces. Of course, this is a merely a memo, not intended for public distribution. It is a part of the conversation. To date, nothing has been officially announced one way or the other. But until there is an official announcement, members of the MAVNI community will continue to devour any news, official or not, that they can get.

1 –
2 –

Tags: ,