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Robert Farley
By Robert Farley December 3, 2009

Foreign language skills a priority

In August 2009, the office of the director of National Intelligence put out its latest National Intelligence Strategy report and included more foreign language training as a priority.

The report outlines six "Mission Objectives," and No. 3 on that list is to "provide strategic intelligence and warning." Specifically, the report states, the intelligence community must "increase the quantity and fluency of our foreign language capability."

That commitment was echoed several times by the director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, in a speech at the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities National Annual Conference on Sept. 1, 2009.

"So for us, the definition and purposes of diversity are really broader than they are, perhaps, for many organizations," Blair said. "And in addition to the categories that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) requires us to track -– minorities, women, persons with disabilities and so on -– we also need employees with a wide background with national ethnic origin in order to be effective with different foreign language capabilities, different heritages, different ethnicities, different orientations, different perspectives, different ideas for us to do our job. And we"re a better force for it."

Blair discussed the Centers for Academic Excellence program in National Security Studies -- established in 2004 -- that encourages schools to develop skills useful to intelligence gathering and analysis, such as "competencies in regional and international expertise, critical foreign languages and cultural awareness."

"And when schools meet these requirements," Blair said, "they receive competitive grant funding for their colleges and universities. And that funding will promote the alignment of their criteria with the intelligence community"s many core missions and skills, because we need criminal justice majors, lawyers, economists, linguists and other language specialists."

On Oct. 28, 2009, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act approved for 2010, and it has a whole section on creating new language training centers for members of the armed forces and civilian employees of the Department of Defense.

We think that's enough to move this one to Promise Kept.

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