WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Bacon is defending the abrupt discharges of some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted with a promised path to citizenship.

The Omaha area’s Republican congressman said Friday that the program involved was supposed to be a narrowly targeted way for the military to acquire specialized talents from foreign nationals.

But, Bacon said, the Army ramped up the program well beyond what was intended, failed to do adequate background checks on the recruits from the start and is now having to go back through to weed out potential bad actors.

“This is indeed a clear foreign intelligence threat that’s been exploited by other countries,” Bacon said.

Bacon is a retired Air Force brigadier general and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He said he’s received hours of classified briefings on the issue.

While he can’t share details, Bacon expressed confidence that the discharges are appropriate and “fixing a vulnerability.”

“This was not meant to be malicious toward immigrants,” Bacon said. “The Army has a failed program and they’re having to fix it.”

Bacon said he felt the need to speak out after seeing a report about the discharges by the Associated Press.

The AP reported that immigration attorneys said they knew of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the Army said that, due to pending litigation, they were unable to explain the discharges.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich posted a statement on Twitter saying the discharges were “breaking faith” with the recruits. “This decision must be reversed now, for the sake of our military, to show that America keeps its word and to uphold the very values we claim to stand for.”

Bacon said the Army doesn’t have a choice. “They have to do it, unless you want to have foreign agents in your army,” he said.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH. Email:joseph.morton@owh.com

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