Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabian flight students have been cleared to resume flight training in the United States after being grounded -- following a shooting at a naval base in Florida -- as the Navy investigated its vetting of foreign students.
International military students resumed flight training on Feb. 25 after the Navy satisfied requirements set forth by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper after a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December.
"Updates to Navy policy include a new regulation prohibiting the possession of personally owned firearms by IMS, limiting access by all foreign nationals to assigned facilities and installations only, and requiring IMS to accept these policies to train in the United States," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cdr Megan Isaac said in a statement sent to UPI.
The Navy also plans to implement a policy for the continuous review of international military students by March 13, Isaac said.
This week's change, first reported by USNI News and ABC, comes on the heels of the Navy's announcement that it would update the vetting process for foreign military students after a December shooting that killed three people and injured eight others at NAS Pensacola.
The suspect in the shooting was a Royal Saudi Air Force member who was part of an international training program that has hosted more than a million students from about 250 countries over its 20-year life, according to Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.
In January, Hoffman noted there had been no previous major incidents connected with the foreign military training program.
On Wednesday, Isaac stressed the importance of the program for maintaining U.S. military partnerships with other countries.
"The Navy is making every effort to minimize disruptions to our foreign national partners while implementing the revised security initiatives," Isaac said. "Foreign military training remains one of the most effective tools to advance U.S. national security, and these actions will enable the Navy to continue to strengthen our alliances and build our partnerships."
The shooter's status prompted Esper to announce an immediate review of the screening process for foreign military students, as well an FBI investigation, during which 20 Saudi students were sent home.
Investigators found posts with anti-American sentiment on the shooter's social media pages, but no evidence of pre-planning or assistance, Barr said.
The DoD in January was considering using its own resources to vet international military students -- a process that had been previously left to partner nations, but it was not immediately clear Wednesday whether the Pentagon had started vetting students separately.
The Navy also announced on Wednesday it was participating in a joint exercise with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces that began Sunday and is expected to wrap Thursday.
The Navy's announcement describes the exercise, called Nautical Defender, as "a bilateral maritime exercise designed to build and sustain combined warfighting capabilities, support long-term regional security and enhance military-to-military interoperability between the U.S. and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."