United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
S. ZILLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for
preliminary injunction, docket no. 78 (the
“Motion”). The Motion presents the following
question: Should the Department of Defense
(“Defendant”) be required to treat non-U.S.
citizens recruited through the Military Accessions Vital to
National Interest (“MAVNI”) program the same way
it treats all other U.S. citizen soldiers when issuing
interim security clearances? For the reasons stated on the
record during oral argument on March 21, 2018, see
docket no. 114, the Court answered this question in the
affirmative and GRANTED the Motion. This Order further
explains those reasons.
The MAVNI program recruits highly trained individuals
pursuing professional careers to serve the military in
Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are skilled professionals who
abandoned educational and professional aspirations as
civilians to enlist in the U.S. Army through the MAVNI
program. Authorized in 2008, the MAVNI program expanded
military recruiting to non-U.S. citizens who: (1) are fully
licensed health care professionals in critically short
specialties; or (2) speak one of 44 strategic languages.
See December 2014 Enlisted MAVNI Information Paper,
docket no. 63-2, at 1. “The language portion of MAVNI
recruits highly qualified Soldiers to provide broadened
language and cultural diversity to the force.”
Id. Through the MAVNI program, the Army recruited
Plaintiffs from their citizen careers to serve in these
military achieved its objective of recruiting a diverse group
of skilled professionals with sought-after specialties.
Plaintiff Amandeep Singh, for example, is a native of India
who came to the United States to attend a university.
Declaration of Amandeep Singh, docket no. 112-1 (“Singh
Declaration”), at ¶ 2. He graduated from Texas
Tech University with a degree in electrical/electronic
engineering and, prior to enlisting in the Army, worked as an
engineer in the wireless and radio frequency fields for such
companies as Blackberry, Ltd., Microsoft Corporation, and
Honeywell International, Inc. Id. at ¶ 3. With
nearly a decade of professional experience, Mr. Singh
enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on July 23, 2015, through
the MAVNI program. Id. at ¶ 4.
Qi “Eva” Xiong is another highly qualified MAVNI
recruit. Ms. Xiong is a native of China who received a Doctor
of Dental Surgery from the University of Colorado.
Declaration of Qi “Eva” Xiong, docket no. 105-2
(“Xiong Declaration”), at ¶ 2. Since
becoming a licensed board certified dentist, she has worked
as a dentist in both Illinois and Missouri. Id. Ms.
Xiong enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on November 10, 2015,
to serve as a dentist through the MAVNI program. Id.
at ¶¶ 3-4. Despite enlisting as a dentist, Xiong
has not been allowed to practice dentistry with the Army
because she has not received a security clearance.
Mehanja is a native of Kosovo who lived in extreme poverty
before fleeing to Germany as a child. Declaration of Valdeta
Mehanja, docket no. 73-1 (“Mehanja Declaration”),
at ¶ 3. After finishing high school, Mehanja worked for
several contractors in the IT function, obtained various IT
certifications, and became experienced with
“ground-to-air and aircraft-to-aircraft communications
. . . .” Mehanja Declaration at ¶¶ 4-5. Using
the money she had saved, she paid her way through Embry
Riddle University where she earned a degree in Aeronautical
Science. Id. at ¶ 6. She received a series of
ratings and licenses while at Embry Riddle and began working
as a flight instructor during her third year. Id. at
¶¶ 7-8. Among other honors and accolades, Mehanja
was selected by Embry Riddle “to serve as
Pilot-in-Command of the school's entry in the Women's
Air Race Classic, a four-day transcontinental flight
competition.” Id. at ¶ 8. She has logged
approximately 2, 000 hours of flight time. Id.
enlisted in the Army through the MAVNI program on February
27, 2015. During Basic Combat Training, she graduated with
the highest female Army Physical Test score in her platoon.
Id. at ¶ 11. She finished Advanced Individual
Training as a UH-60 Blackhawk repairer with a 97% GPA and
honors from the Aviation Logistics School. Id. Her
Battalion Commander stated that “[s]he is without a
doubt one of the most competent, caring, and professional
leaders I have worked with in 22 years of service.”
Id. at ¶ 17.
her qualifications, she too was told that she was not
eligible to obtain a security clearance and proceed with the
necessary training and education to become a Warrant
Officer-the position she had hoped to attain when she
enlisted. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 29. Her goal is to
become a Blackhawk Helicopter pilot. Id. at ¶
12. Prior to initiating this lawsuit and filing the Motion,
Mehanja was unable to fly for the Army because she had been
denied a security clearance. Id. at ¶ 29;
see also Declaration of Neil T. O'Donnell,
docket no. 90-3 (“O'Donnell Declaration”), at
¶ 8 (as of February 2, 2018, “Valdeta Mehanja has
not received either a final or an interim security
Mr. Singh, Ms. Xiong, and Ms. Mehanja, the other Plaintiffs
in this lawsuit enlisted in the Army, became naturalized
citizens, and serve the United States by using their
specialized skills. Like all other soldiers serving in the
Army, the MAVNI soldiers must oftentimes complete additional
specialized schooling-such as officer command school or
Warrant Officer school-before Defendant promotes them to
their desired roles. See, e.g., Singh Declaration,
at ¶¶ 6-7; Xiong Declaration, at ¶ 6; Mehanja
Declaration, at ¶ 29.
participate in these programs, MAVNI soldiers must obtain a
security clearance or “interim security
clearance.” See, e.g., id. Sometimes
Defendant enforces this requirement before allowing the
soldiers to enroll. Other times, MAVNI soldiers have been
permitted to attend OCS, complete all necessary coursework,
but have then been designated “security
holdovers” pending a security clearance determination.
See, e.g., Declaration of Yang Zhidong,
docket no.105-6 (“Zhidong Declaration”),
¶¶ 5-6. Even though these soldiers have completed
OCS, they have been relegated to various administrative roles
pending their security clearance determinations. For example,
Mr. Zhidong-who holds a Master's Degree in International
Economics from Johns Hopkins-is an administrative assistant
to an infantry battalion chaplain, where he performs routine
tasks such as planning events, logistics, and travel.
Id. at ¶ 6.
of when Defendant requires a MAVNI soldier to obtain an
interim security clearance, the record shows that these
interim security clearances are necessary for MAVNI soldiers
to progress in rank and serve in the specialized roles the
Army recruited them for.
Plaintiffs challenge their inability to receive interim
security clearances on the same terms, conditions, and
criteria as all other U.S. citizen soldiers.
the program's inception, Defendant has subjected soldiers
enlisted through the MAVNI program to various counter
intelligence policies designed to detect and assess potential
threats to national security. These policies have delayed or
outright prevented MAVNI soldiers from obtaining security
clearances which, in turn, has precluded these soldiers from
advancing their military careers and serving in their areas
contest the constitutionality of these counter intelligence
policies, which Defendant does not impose on other soldiers
who did not enlist through the MAVNI program. Plaintiffs'
Third Amended Complaint, docket no. 63 (the
“Complaint”), specifically challenges these
policies and asserts a single claim for declaratory and
injunctive relief “prohibiting Defendant from engaging
in actions that discriminate against naturalized U.S citizen
MAVNI soldiers in violation of Plaintiffs' . . . equal