College of Distance Education
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE
IT’S ABOUT TIME THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE IMPLEMENTED MANDATORY FOREIGN LANGUAGE TRAINING FOR ALL MEMBERS
Samuel W. Bettwy
Lieutenant Colonel, Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Reserve
A paper submitted to the Faculty of the Naval War College in partial satisfaction of the requirements of the Department of Joint Military Operations.
The contents of this paper reflect my own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Naval War College or the Department of the Navy.
Signature: s/ Samuel W. Bettwy
28 January 2013
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Given the critical need for proficient foreign language speakers, the military services offer bonuses to members who are proficient in high-demand languages. They also encourage already-proficient foreign language speakers to take advantage of abundant multinational educational and training opportunities. Yet DOD has done virtually nothing to develop foreign language proficiency among all of its members. Unlike other agencies such as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), DOD has instituted no programs to develop home-grown foreign language speakers. It meets only its immediate needs with linguists and local nationals.
THE INADEQUACY OF CURRENT DOD FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAMS
DOD recognizes the importance of foreign language capability across all ranks in all future operations, but it continues to rely on and reward servicemembers who are already proficient in a foreign language when they enter the military. However, Americans are not naturally foreign-language proficient or capable unless they are immigrants or second-generation immigrants. Even college-educated Americans tend to lack foreign language skills because U.S. colleges and universities, including the service academies, require only minimal foreign language ability to graduate.[vii] Because of the dearth of foreign language speakers among recruits, the military services reward speakers of high-demand foreign languages with bonuses,[viii] and DOD has cutting-edge technology for testing proficiency.[ix]
DOD also encourages staff officer education in foreign countries[x] and gives officers the opportunity to satisfy their educational requirements at foreign schools through the Department of the Army’s School of other Nations (SON) program.[xi] Multinational warfighter exercises, such as those available at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, provide brigade combat team training in the context of a NATO headquarters for U.S. and coalition forces.[xii] In addition, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has extensive international training liaisons.[xiii]
But these multinational schooling and training opportunities are available only to a select few officers who happen to be foreign language proficient. DOD’s Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) classroom instruction is limited “to DoD language professionals,” namely servicemembers who can demonstrate that a foreign language is a skill required for their particular military specialty.[xiv] And even the DLI Broadband Language Training System is designed for “post-basic learners seeking to refresh, sustain or enhance their proficiency skills with the goal of reaching Interagency Language Roundtable Level 3 or higher.”[xv] For several years, the Army had contracted to make Rosetta Stone® available to all servicemembers, starting at the basic level. But there were no career incentives to using the...