WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has given the Navy and other military services conditional approval to resume training of Saudi Arabian nationals in the U.S.
Operational training, such as flying and other non-classroom work, for the approximately 850 Saudis at multiple U.S bases was suspended on Dec. 10. That was four days after one Saudi trainee shot and killed three U.S. Navy service members at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said in a memo dated Jan. 17 and released Tuesday that non-classroom training can resume once the military services have met certain conditions, including implementing a prohibition on the possession — on or off U.S. military property — of privately owned firearms and ammunition by international military students and their families.
The military services must also ensure that all international military students are under continuous monitoring for potentially disqualifying behavior. The continuous monitoring, which was ordered last week by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, is intended to allow U.S. officials to pick up on signs of radicalization or other problematic behavior that might not have been apparent when the student entered the training program.
The military services must also take steps to transition most international military students to credentials that limit physical access to those Defense Department facilities for which they have a bona fide requirement to access.
Norquist set no firm date for resumption of the training. It is up to the military services to meet the conditions first, and then notify the Pentagon agency that is responsible for overseeing international training programs.
Last week, the Justice Department announced that 21 Saudi military students were sent home after a review of all Saudi trainees. The 21, including an undisclosed number at Pensacola, had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography,” including in internet chat rooms, officials said. None is accused of having had advance knowledge of the Dec. 6 shooting or helped the gunman carry it out.
The shooting at Pensacola in which Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in American military training programs and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets.