“Combating human trafficking is a responsibility the Defense Department (DoD) takes very seriously,” Anthony M. Kurta, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said during a recent seminar on Human Trafficking Awareness. “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It not only destroys the lives of those victimized, but also destroys countless families and poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the entire world. Those who engage in human trafficking exploit the weak and the vulnerable and capitalize on those who patronize the sex-trade industry and those involved in forced labor. For those reasons, DoD is committed to continuing its aggressive stance against human trafficking, and will further training its personnel to expand awareness.”
One wouldn’t normally think of the DoD as working to prevent human trafficking, but the signs could be evident around DoD personnel. Some examples are a subcontractor could withhold passports and payments to employees. Some companies make workers pay a large fee to obtain a job on a DoD installation. The three most common forms of trafficking, according to the DoD’s Combating Trafficking in Persons office, are labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and child soldiering.
According to Kurta, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently received a presidential award for the development of the Memex program. It searches the deep web and connects open-source information to identify tracking patterns. U.S. law enforcements, military and intelligence entities are using it to stop human trafficking enterprises and bring traffickers to justice.
“Additionally, our Special Operations Command, partnered with the National Association to Protect Children and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations to establish the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps,” Kurta said. “Known as HERO, the group trains wounded, ill and injured service members in high-tech forensic and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation. HERO exemplifies the power of public-private partnerships to help combat trafficking in persons,” Kurta said.
The DoD also partners with the Joint Staff and combatant commands. According to Kurta, Joint training exercises are conducted that include trafficking in persons scenarios that will help ensure our forces understand their roles in preventing, recognizing, and reporting trafficking in persons incidents. The DoD will continue to invest in and develop a variety of robust training resources to help educate its total force to combat trafficking in persons. Such training also will include specialized training for DoD law enforcement and acquisition professionals, in addition to toolkits to assist leaders in developing their specialized training.
During the month of January, the DoD recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Military and DoD civilian personnel must take at least one Combating Trafficking in Persons training course every fiscal year. Kurta quoted from the proclamation declaring January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month: “There is no place in our world to allow modern slavery to persist,” he said. “We will do our part to strive for its total abolition.”
DoD says everyone can do their part in fighting trafficking. Incidents of human trafficking can be reported to the DoD Inspector General hotline at 1-800-424-9098, 703-604-8799 or DSN 664-8799, or at www.dodig.mil/hotline.