US military to soon resume training for Saudi students


Defense Secretary Mark Esper next week will visit Naval Air Station Pensacola to detail new vetting and security measures on U.S. bases following the deadly shooting by a Saudi military student in December.

Esper will travel to Florida on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with base leadership and give an update on new vetting protocols for foreign military personnel as well as revamped security procedures “which will include physical security features” at U.S. bases, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman told reporters on Thursday.

Hoffman said the Pentagon will announce the new measures “shortly” and that the military also expects to soon resume operational training for roughly 850 Saudi students in the United States. The students’ training has been limited to the classroom since early December after a Royal Saudi Air Force officer shot and killed three sailors and wounded eight others at the Florida naval base.

“We’re looking forward to turning that [training] back on in the coming days. … We should have an announcement for you soon.”

Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire at the air station in Pensacola on Dec. 6 in what U.S. officials are calling an act of terrorism. Alshamrani, 21, was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff during the attack.

Attorney General William Barr announced on Monday that while an investigation found no evidence that other members of the Saudi military had knowledge of Alshamrani’s intentions, 21 military members training in the U.S. would be unenrolled and returned home over other revelations produced by the probe. Twelve of those students were stationed at NAS Pensacola.

Following the shooting, officials announced that the Pentagon would take on a bigger role in vetting foreign students coming to train on U.S. soil.

In the past, foreign students coming to the United States typically went through a home country vetting process, followed by additional screening from the Department of Homeland Security and State Department as well as the Pentagon.

Hoffman said last month that the Defense Department now will “take the information we can get from the Department of State, from the host countries, and then take it and run it through systems we have.”

Tags Mark Esper William Barr

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