US Army Bars Dual US Citizens from Most Jobs

In 2011, the US Army issued a revised personnel regulation in which the Army announced that dual citizens of the United States and another country are not permitted to enlist in the Army, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard into jobs that require a security clearance “unless they already possess a security clearance.” The regulation is important because it potentially bars millions of Americans from most Army jobs: The vast majority of Army jobs require a security clearance–including officer appointments, Special Forces, Military Intelligence, and Military Police jobs, but also most others.

Dual citizenship is something that millions of Americans possess, often inadvertently. Whether a person holds citizenship in a particular country is a matter of that country’s law, not U.S. law, and one’s citizenship is thus not always within the control of the individual or the United States Government. Although some countries allow their citizens to expatriate, others do not. Some people are dual citizens because their parents or grandparents hold citizenship in a foreign country; others are dual citizens because they were born in another country. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has published “Citizenship Laws of the World,” a document that explains the wide variety of rules regarding citizenship. Although this document is not completely up-to-date (some countries have changed their laws since it was published), it can give a reader a good idea of the potential problems posed by the Army’s personnel regulation. According to OPM, for example, the country of Iran considers the children of male Iranian citizens to be Iranian citizens as well, and prevents them from renouncing Iranian citizenship–so any US-born child of an Iranian citizen is necessarily a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, and can’t rid himself of Iranian citizenship. Should the US Army bar a young American of Iranian descent from serving in the US Army Special Forces, merely because his father is an Iranian immigrant to the United States? One would hope not.

The Army’s regulation preventing all dual US citizens from enlisting in most Army jobs is a much broader bar than the military has previously applied. Previously, dual citizenship did not prevent enlistment into any job and did not automatically bar a person from holding a security clearance; instead, security officials would evaluate each person’s case individually. Ironically, famous Americans such as George Washington, John F. Kennedy, John Shalikashvili, Marco Rubio, and even Barack Obama would likely have been barred from serving in most Army jobs had they attempted to join the US Army at a time when this regulation was in effect.

The rule barring dual citizens from enlisting in most jobs also cedes American sovereignty to other countries, because it lets foreign countries control who can serve in the US Army. As discussed above, a foreign country–not the United States–determines who is a citizen of that country. When a foreign country determines that an American holds its citizenship, that American necessarily is a dual citizen of that country and the United States. Barring these dual citizens from enlisting thus lets foreign countries use their citizenship laws to control which Americans can serve in the Army. Allowing foreign laws to control who gets to enlist in the US Army is clearly not in America’s national security interest. Let’s hope that Army leaders rescind this new rule soon, before it damages the Army’s ability to recruit from the ranks of talented American citizens.