This week, with December’s terrorist attack at NAS Pensacola in mind, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., brought out a proposal to reform how foreign nationals are trained at American bases.
Scott introduced the “Secure U.S. Bases Act” on Thursday. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is cosponsoring the bill.
“The Secure U.S. Bases Act requires a thorough vetting process before a foreign student enters the U.S.; creates a special, limited visa for foreign students; and establishes a review process so that DOD is not operating training programs in the U.S. that would be better operated abroad,” Scott’s office noted.
The terrorist behind the December attack was a lieutenant in the Saudi Arabian Air Force who was training at NAS Pensacola.
“The safety and security of American men and women in uniform is always a priority for me, and it should be a priority of our entire government. The tragic terrorist attack in Pensacola last year revealed an unnecessary risk. This terrorist should never have been allowed in our country, let alone on an American military base with easy access to American military men and women. The Secure U.S. Bases Act will make sure foreign military students training at U.S. bases are thoroughly vetted and monitored, and that our troops are protected and never have to experience a tragedy like this again,” Scott said.
“Foreign military programs have valuable benefits—providing our partners around the world the opportunity to train and learn from the best here in the U.S.—but the tragic events at Pensacola underscore the unacceptable shortfalls in our security standards and vetting procedures. We must do more to protect our military personnel and ensure the security of our facilities. This bill addresses those shortfalls—creating a more thorough vetting and monitoring process that keeps our servicemembers and military bases secure and safe,” Ernst said.
The bill would create a new visa category for foreign military students training on American bases and will ensure they do not have firearms except when training. Foreign nationals must have the clearance and endorsement of their country’s intelligence leaders to be considered to train on American bases. “The U.S. Director of National Intelligence will be responsible for the final decision on whether to admit an applicant into the program,” Scott’s office noted.
In December, after the attack, Scott appeared on Fox News, demanding an end to a program where foreign military personnel train at U.S. military flight schools.
Scott weighed in again on the attack later that month and called for more transparency on the vetting process used by the federal government for foreign nationals. He also said that the terrorist should never have been allowed on a military post.
“The safety and security of American men and women in uniform is my number one priority,” Scott said. “It should be the number one priority of our entire government. While our alliances around the world are invaluable in defending American national security and our interests abroad, the tragic terrorist attack in Pensacola last week revealed an unnecessary risk. This terrorist should never have been allowed in our country, let alone on an American military base with easy access to American military men and women.
“Federal agencies have not been transparent about the vetting process used for foreign nationals training on U.S. military bases. Today, I’m calling to end the training of any foreign nationals who haven’t been fully vetted by U.S. intelligence agencies. Any foreign national currently training on U.S. military bases that hasn’t been fully vetted by U.S. intelligence agencies should immediately be sent back to their home country, with the exception of those being held in connection with the terrorist attack in Pensacola. Every federal agency has a responsibility to be clear and transparent with the American people about what processes we use to vet foreign nationals training on our bases. We cannot continue to take unnecessary risks,” Scott added.
Scott’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.