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United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

November 25, 2008: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Defense Management: Preliminary Observations on DOD's Plans 
for Developing Language and Cultural Awareness Capabilities: 

This letter formally transmits the attached briefing in response to 
Senate Report No. 110-77, which accompanied the National Defense 
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Pub. L. No. 110-181). The 
Senate Report requires GAO to review DOD's plans for the development of 
language and cultural awareness capabilities and to report to the 
congressional defense committees by December 31, 2008. On November 24, 
2008, we provided the briefing to staff of your committees to satisfy 
this mandate. We plan to complete our work and issue a final report at 
a later date. 

We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional 
committees. We are also sending copies to the Secretary of Defense; the 
Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Under Secretary of Defense for 
Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; the Under Secretary of Defense 
for Personnel and Readiness; the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air 
Force; and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. This report will also be 
available at no charge on our Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. Should you or your staff have any questions 
concerning this report, please contact me at (202) 512-9619 or 
pickups@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional 
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this 
report. Key contributors to this report were Patty Lentini (Assistant 
Director), Gabrielle Carrington (Analyst-in-Charge), John Bumgarner, 
MacKenzie Cooper, Kathryn Smith, and Traye Smith. 

Signed by: 

Sharon Pickup:
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 

Enclosure: 

List of committees: 

The Honorable Carl Levin:
Chairman:
The Honorable John McCain:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Daniel Inouye:
Chairman:
The Honorable Thad Cochran:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on Defense:
Committee on Appropriations:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ike Skelton:
Chairman:
The Honorable Duncan L. Hunter:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John P. Murtha:
Chairman:
The Honorable C.W. Bill Young:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on Defense:
Committee on Appropriations:
House of Representatives: 

[End of letter] 

Enclosure: Briefing Presentation: 

Review of DODís Language and Cultural Awareness Capabilities: 

Preliminary Observations: 

November 24, 2008: 

Overview: 

Objectives: 

Scope and Methodology: 

Background: 

Preliminary Observations: 

- DODís Plans to Develop Language and Cultural Awareness Capabilities; 

- DODís Efforts to Identify Broad Capabilities, Detailed Requirements, 
and Inventory Data for Language and Cultural Awareness; 

- DODís Training and Education Programs for Developing Language and 
Cultural Awareness Capabilities; 

- DODís Research and Acquisition Programs for Developing Language and 
Cultural Awareness Capabilities: 

[End of section] 

Objectives: 

Senate Report No. 110-77, which accompanied the FY 2008 National 
Defense Authorization Act (Pub. L. No. 110-181), directed GAO to review 
DODís plans for the development of language and cultural awareness 
capabilities and to report to the congressional defense committees by 
December 31, 2008. 

Our objectives were to assess the extent to which DOD has: 

1. Developed plans to address language and cultural awareness 
capabilities, including funding needs and metrics to evaluate success; 

2. Established processes to identify strategic language and cultural 
awareness capabilities, requirements to carry out its plans, and 
inventory of existing capabilities; 

3. Developed training and education programs to support its plans for 
developing language and cultural awareness capabilities; and: 

4. Developed research and acquisition programs to support its plans for 
developing language and cultural awareness capabilities. 

This briefing presents our preliminary observations as of November 
2008. We plan to complete our work and issue a report at a later date. 

[End of section] 

Scope and Methodology: 

We reviewed DOD's plans and initiatives for developing language and 
cultural awareness capabilities by (1) gathering and analyzing 
documentation on DODís language-and culture-related efforts in the 
areas of strategic planning, management structure, funding, training 
and education, and research and acquisition, (2) reviewing key elements 
of successful organizational transformations, and (3) interviewing 
knowledgeable officials from pertinent offices, including the Office of 
the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; the Office 
of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and 
Logistics; the Joint Staff; the military services; and selected 
combatant commands. We focused our review on the efforts of DOD and the 
services to develop language and cultural awareness capabilities within 
the military force; we did not include a review of the defense 
agencies. 

We obtained oral comments from DOD. Officials also provided technical 
changes that we incorporated as appropriate. 

We conducted this performance audit from April 2008 to November 2008 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those 
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

[End of section] 

Background: 

DOD and others have conducted several studies that emphasized the 
importance of developing language and cultural awareness skills among 
U.S. military personnel. For example: 

* The Defense Science Boardís Summer Study on Transition to and from 
Hostilities (December 2004) highlighted the need to treat language and 
cultural awareness skills as seriously as combat skills in order to 
achieve U.S. political and military objectives. 

* The Defense Language Transformation Study consisted of five DOD-
sponsored reports (issued between December 2003 and May 2004) that 
highlighted the need to better manage language and regional expertise 
within DOD, the services, and the combatant commands. 

In addition, the Strategic Planning Guidance for FY 2006-2011 directed 
the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a 
comprehensive roadmap for achieving the full range of language 
capabilities necessary to support the 2004 Defense Strategy. 

DOD uses the terms cultural awareness, cultural expertise, regional 
expertise, and regional proficiency to refer to culture-related skills, 
but these terms are not consistently used within the department. For 
the purposes of this briefing, we use all of these terms, depending on 
which terms are used in DOD documents. 

[End of section] 

Objective 1: DODís Plans to Develop Language and Cultural Awareness 
Capabilities: 

In 2004, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the establishment of 
positions and entities intended to provide internal oversight and 
strategic guidance to transform language and culture capabilities, 
including the following: 

* Senior Language Authorities: 

- The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness appointed 
the DOD Senior Language Authority to serve as the DOD sponsor for 
language and regional proficiency. 

- The services, combatant commands, certain defense agencies, and the 
Joint Staff appointed Senior Language Authorities. The Senior Language 
Authorities are responsible for assessing their organizationsí language 
needs, tracking language personnel assigned to their organizations, and 
identifying emerging policy requirements. 

* Defense Language Steering Committee: 

- This committee provides senior-level guidance in the language 
transformation effort and development of DODís language capabilities. 
The DOD Senior Language Authority chairs the committee, which is 
comprised of the Senior Language Authorities. 

* Defense Language Action Panel: 

- This panel supports the activities, functions, and responsibilities 
of the Defense Language Steering Committee. Action officers from the 
same entities that are members of the Defense Language Steering 
Committee comprise this action panel. 

In February 2005, DOD issued the Defense Language Transformation 
Roadmap, which was intended to ensure that foreign language capability 
and accompanying regional expertise are developed and maintained within 
the military force. 

The Roadmap contains four goals: 

1. Create a foundational language and cultural expertise in the 
officer, civilian, and enlisted ranks of both the Active and Reserve 
Components. 

2. Create the capacity to surge language and cultural resources beyond 
these foundational and in-house capabilities. 

3. Establish a cadre of language specialists possessing a level 3/3/3 
(listening/reading/speaking) ability.[Footnote 1] 

4. Establish a process to track the accession, separation, and 
promotion rates of language professionals and Foreign Area Officers. 

DOD identified a total of 43 tasks associated with the Roadmapís four 
goals. Since 2005, DOD reports having completed 91 percent of the 
Roadmap tasks, and it plans to complete most of the remaining tasks by 
the end of 2008. As of November 2008, tasks completed include: 

* The establishment of the Defense Language Office, within the Office 
of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in May 
2005 to implement the Roadmap and ensure strategic focus on meeting 
present and future requirements for language and regional expertise. 

* The publication of a DOD instruction in June 2007 that provides 
guidance for language program management. 

* The publication of an annual Strategic Language List in fiscal years 
2006, 2007, and 2008, which identifies languages for which DOD needs to 
develop immediate and long-term capability. 

Our prior work[Footnote 2] has shown that establishing a strategic plan 
is a key practice in implementing successful transformations. 

* A strategic plan should include the establishment of performance 
goals and determination of strategies and resources to accomplish the 
goals. 

* Strategic planning best practices also call for goals and objectives 
to be expressed in a manner that allows for measurement of progress. 

In its current form, the Roadmap does not contain certain key elements 
of a strategic plan, including long-term strategic goals that are tied 
to metrics and to funding priorities. These key elements could help 
decision makers assess progress toward outcomes and establish strategic 
funding priorities for language and cultural awareness capabilities 
within DOD. 

DOD officials stated that the Roadmap was not intended to be a 
strategic plan. Rather, they decided that a detailed document 
containing specific goals and tasks would allow DOD to more quickly 
begin language transformation efforts. 

DOD is currently developing a new plan for continuing defense language 
transformation efforts, which is referred to as Phase II. 

* DOD officials stated that Phase II will be similar in format to the 
original Roadmap, i.e., it will include goals and tasks and will not be 
a fully developed strategic plan. However, the format and composition 
of this document is evolving. 

* According to DOD officials, Phase II will focus more on developing 
cultural awareness and regional expertise capabilities than did the 
original Roadmap, which focused primarily on developing language 
capabilities. They also stated that Phase II will address standard DOD-
wide definitions for cultural awareness and regional expertise. 

* DOD plans to have a draft of Phase II available in January 2009 for 
consideration by the next administration but does not know when it will 
be finalized. 

The services are in different stages of development and completion of 
strategy documents related to language and cultural awareness. The 
extent to which these service strategy documents are aligned with the 
Defense Language Transformation Roadmap varies. 

The Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have developed or are 
developing strategy documents intended to guide efforts to develop 
language and cultural awareness skills within their respective forces. 

Air Force: 

The Air Forceís strategy document, which is titled, Air Force Culture, 
Region & Language Strategy, is still in draft form as of October 2008. 

* It includes goals and tasks that are intended to enable airmen to 
influence outcomes of operations and maximize operational capabilities 
in culturally complex environments. 

- These goals and tasks, which are assigned to offices of 
responsibility, are planned for completion by the first half of fiscal 
year 2011. 

* The goals and tasks appear to be aligned with the Defense Language 
Transformation Roadmap to some extent. According to the Air Force 
strategy document, it tailors the goals of the Roadmap to the Air 
Forceís mission and is linked to higher-level national, defense, and 
military strategies. 

* This draft strategy document addresses both language professionals 
and general purpose forces. Its goals are focused on (1) developing 
requirements, (2) assessing capability gaps, and (3) developing 
education and training. 

Navy: 

* The Navyís strategy document, which is titled U.S.Navy Language 
Skills, Regional Expertise and Cultural Awareness Strategy, includes 
goals and tasks that are intended to facilitate and transform the 
development of the Navyís capacity and capability for language, 
regional expertise, and cultural awareness skills. 

- These goals and tasks are assigned to offices of responsibility.The 
Navy also has a separate implementation plan that includes timelines 
for completion of the goals and tasks. 

* The goals and tasks appear to be aligned with the Defense Language 
Transformation Roadmap to some extent. According to the Navy strategy 
document, it tailors the goals of the Roadmap to the Navyís mission and 
is indirectly linked to higher-level national, defense, and military 
strategies. 

* This strategy document addresses both language professionals and 
general purpose forces. Its goals are focused on (1) developing 
requirements, (2) assessing capability gaps, and (3) developing 
education and training. 

Army: 

* The Armyís strategy document, which is titled Army Culture and 
Foreign Language Strategy, is still in draft form as of October 2008. 

* It includes the overarching goal of providing a baseline of culture 
and language capabilities for all soldiers to support the 
accomplishment of unit missions. The strategy document includes tasks 
aimed at achieving this goal. 

- It assigns these tasks to various offices of responsibility within 
the Army, although it does not provide timelines for completing the 
tasks. Army officials stated that they will develop a separate 
implementation plan. 

* The strategy document does not appear to be aligned with the Defense 
Language Transformation Roadmap. It does not discuss the Roadmap, 
although it references the National Security Strategy as providing 
insight to help shape the Armyís goals. 

* This draft strategy document focuses on the development of basic 
culture and foreign language skills in all soldiers through (1) career 
development and (2) pre-deployment training. However, the strategy does 
not specifically address additional training for soldiers who are in 
positions that require advanced language and culture skills. 

The Marine Corps does not currently have a strategy that addresses 
language and cultural awareness, although Marine Corps officials stated 
that they are working to develop a strategy that will address language 
and cultural awareness skills for both general purpose forces and 
language professionals. In the absence of a strategy, the Marine Corps 
relies on DOD and service documents in order to guide its training and 
education efforts in this area. Examples of documents the Marine Corps 
uses include the following: 

* Defense Language Transformation Roadmap; 

* DOD Directive 5160.41E, which addresses policies and responsibilities 
for the Defense Language Program; and: 

* The Long War Ė Send in the Marines (Marine Corps strategic guidance). 

[End of Objective 1] 

Objective 2: DODís Capabilities, Requirements, and Inventory for 
Language and Cultural Awareness: 

Since the issuance of the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap in 
2005, DOD has initiated efforts to build processes for developing 
language and regional expertise within the department to meet current 
and potential future operational needs. These efforts include: 

* Determining broad-based strategic capabilities for specific languages 
and countries in which language and regional expertise is needed; 

* Establishing detailed requirements for current and potential future 
operations; 

* Identifying the existing inventory of foreign language proficiency 
and regional expertise within the military force; and: 

* Developing a strategic management tool to identify potential 
shortfalls in foreign language and regional expertise capabilities. 

Broad-Based Strategic Capabilities: 

DOD has published a Strategic Language List, which identifies critical 
languages needed to carry out its mission, on an annual basis since 
2006. 

Pursuant to a task in the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, DOD 
began conducting a capabilities-based review in July 2007, which is 
intended to identify the specific languages and countries for which 
language and regional expertise is needed over the next 10 years. The 
review is also intended to develop a process and methodology for 
conducting subsequent reviews. According to DOD officials, DOD expects 
that the capabilities-based review process will be synchronized with 
DODís 2-year strategic planning cycle, with the next review being 
conducted in conjunction with the development of fiscal year 2010 
strategic guidance. 

The results of the capabilities-based review were finalized in November 
2008. We have not yet received a copy of these results for analysis. 

Detailed Requirements for Current and Potential Future Operations: 

In January 2006, DOD established a requirements process for combatant 
commands to submit detailed language and regional expertise 
requirements to the DOD Senior Language Authority on a quarterly basis. 

* In the process of implementing the requirements process, DOD asked 
the services and defense agencies to also submit detailed requirements 
in order to capture all requirements. 

The requirements data to be submitted must contain certain elements, 
such as the language and proficiency level, the regional expertise 
proficiency level, the occupational specialty, and the desired source 
for filling the requirement (e.g., military or contractor). 

* The combatant commands, services, and defense agencies report any 
additional requirements pertaining to current operations that are above 
and beyond established positions. 

* The combatant commands and defense agencies are also to report 
requirements pertaining to all plans for potential future operations, 
such as operational plans, contingency plans, and combined plans. 

To carry out current operations and plans for potential future 
operations, the combatant commands, services, and defense agencies 
reported, as of March 2008, that they have a total of 141,000 
requirements that include personnel with language skills and regional 
expertise, and machine translation tools. 

However, the methodologies used by the combatant commands to determine 
language and regional expertise requirements vary, and therefore, 
estimates of requirements have differed widely. 

* For example, as of February 2008, U.S. Pacific Commandís requirements 
outnumber the requirements of all the other combatant commands 
combined. 

DOD has recognized that it has more work to do to refine the process 
for determining and reporting language and regional expertise 
requirements. DOD has not yet determined whether the combatant commands 
need to use a standard, consistent methodology when establishing their 
language and regional expertise requirements for their respective 
plans. 

Inventory of Foreign Language Proficiency and Regional Expertise: 

DOD has taken actions to identify existing foreign language proficiency 
and regional expertise within the force: 

* Pursuant to the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, all of the 
services, except for the Army, have completed a one-time self-report 
screening of all military personnel for possession of language and 
regional expertise skills. According to Army officials, the high pace 
of deployments has affected their response rate and they are continuing 
to work on completing this task. 

- The services that completed the self-report screening have reported 
the results to the Defense Language Office and incorporated the 
information into their personnel records. 

* The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have, at DOD direction, 
implemented mechanisms to screen personnel upon their accession into 
the military for existing language and regional expertise skills. This 
information is maintained in the personnel records of each individual 
and can be queried by the service and DOD, according to officials from 
each service. 

* The Army is in the process of mandating that all accessions are 
screened for existing language skills. The information will be 
maintained in the personnel records and will be able to be queried as 
well, according to Army officials. 

Strategic Management Tool: 

The Defense Language Office is in the process of developing and 
fielding the Language Readiness Index. 

* The Language Readiness Index is intended to compare the language and 
regional expertise requirements identified by combatant commands, 
services, and defense agencies with the existing inventory of language 
proficiency and regional expertise of military personnel. 

- The Language Readiness Index is intended to be a strategic management 
tool for DOD that can identify potential shortfalls in language 
proficiency and regional expertise, so that decision makers can assess 
risk and take appropriate action, if needed. 

DOD has not yet determined whether it needs a formal planning process 
to ensure that resources are properly allocated to meet any identified 
potential shortfalls for language and regional expertise requirements, 
such as for operational and contingency plans. 

[End of Objective 2] 

Objective 3: DODís Training and Education Programs for Developing 
Language and Cultural Awareness Capabilities: 

Pre-deployment Training for General Purpose Forces: 

The amount of pre-deployment language and culture training that a unit 
receives at mobilization sites and home stations is based on the nature 
of the unitís mission and the amount of time available for culture and 
language training, as articulated by the commander of the unit. Thus, 
some units receive more training than others, resulting in different 
levels of knowledge and understanding. 

Each of the services established a center to assist in coordinating, 
developing, distributing, and providing basic language and culture 
training, which is tailored to the needs of the unit. For example, 
training is provided through: 

* Service language and cultural center educational products; 

* Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Centerís (DLIFLCís) 
Mobile Training Teams; and: 

* DLIFLCís Language Survival Kits. 

In addition to the training provided by the servicesí culture and 
language centers, some commanders have also initiated language and 
culture training programs, such as the Language Enabled Soldier program 
for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Lewis, Washington. 

Professional Military Education for General Purpose Forces: 

DOD Instruction 5160.70 identifies language and regional proficiency as 
critical to the continuum of professional military education. Some 
examples of the services incorporating language and culture into their 
professional military education are: 

* The Air Force has incorporated cultural instruction into the 
curricula for its enlisted and officer professional military education, 
with a focus on providing airmen with the knowledge, skills, and 
attitudes that serve as a framework for cultural understanding. The Air 
Force has also included language instruction into its professional 
military education curricula for officers,e.g., by using DLIFLC 
instructors to provide language training. 

* The Navy has embedded cultural and regional knowledge into the 
curricula for its enlisted and officer professional military education. 

* The Army has developed and is currently in the process of refining 
cultural instruction that can be included in professional military 
education courses. Individual Army schools have flexibility in 
tailoring this cultural instruction to the specific needs of their 
curricula. 

* The Marine Corps has incorporated cultural instruction into 
professional military education for its officers and is in the process 
of adding cultural instruction into the professional military education 
curricula for enlisted personnel. The Marine Corps has also included 
language training in the professional military education curricula for 
captains and majors, which is designed to provide language 
familiarization skills. 

Training for Language Professionals: 

Language professionals, such as human intelligence collectors and 
signal intelligence analysts, are individuals who require a foreign 
language to perform their duties. 

DOD-wide initial, sustainment, and enhancement foreign language 
training for language professionals is provided by the DLIFLC. 

* DLIFLC provides its foreign language training through a variety of 
mediums, including classroom instruction, language training 
detachments, and online materials. 

* Currently, the standard for graduation from DLIFLC is 2/2/1+ 
(listening/reading/speaking). 

* However, the proficiency goal for DOD language professionals is 3/3/3 
(listening/reading/speaking). In order to achieve this goal, the 
services and defense agencies are required to establish policies, 
procedures, and training and education plans that enable language 
professionals to attain and maintain this proficiency level over the 
course of their careers. 

Education and Training for Foreign Area Officers: 

A Foreign Area Officer (FAO) is DODís uniformed expert who possesses a 
unique combination of regional expertise and foreign language 
proficiency with a strategic focus on national security. 

DOD Instruction 1315.20 established a minimum common set of education 
and training standards for FAOs across all the services, including 
foreign language proficiency in one or more languages of the assigned 
region, a graduate-level degree concentrating in the assigned region, 
and at least a 6-month immersion in the assigned region. DOD also 
requires the services to provide sustainment training throughout the 
FAOís career. 

DODís fiscal year 2007 FAO program review and report identified areas 
that require improvement, such as the following: 

* The minimum immersion experience is not being met by all the 
servicesí FAO programs. For example, the Air Force, due to a lack of 
funding, is currently conducting 2 months of immersion training, but 
plans to expand to 6 months as required by DOD in fiscal year 2010. 

* DOD and the services recognize that there are a limited number of 
opportunities for language and regional expertise sustainment training. 

[End of Objective 3] 

Objective 4: DODís Research and Acquisition Programs for Developing 
Language and Cultural Awareness Capabilities: 

DOD Instruction 5160.70, which lays out the organizational 
responsibilities of the Defense Language Program, directs the Under 
Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD 
(AT&L)) to: 

* Establish and publish procedures for the oversight of DOD efforts to 
research, develop, and acquire multi-language technology tools, and: 

* To ensure, in coordination with other DOD entities, that language 
content validation occurs during the development phase of the tools. 

USD (AT&L) officials stated that they have existing procedures in place 
to carry out these responsibilities, specifically: 

* USD (AT&L) has an established process for oversight of DOD science 
and technology, which will include language translation technology. 

* USD (AT&L) has acquisition and testing policies already in place, 
under which language content validation will occur, and is actively 
working with other DOD entities to ensure that this validation takes 
place. 

In addition, the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap directed USD 
(AT&L) to establish a coherent, prioritized, and coordinated DOD multi-
language technology research, development, and acquisition policy and 
program. 

* This task was intended to help achieve the Defense Language 
Transformation Roadmap goal of creating the capacity to surge language 
and cultural resources beyond foundational and in-house capabilities. 

In response to this task, USD (AT&L) published the Defense Language 
Technology Roadmap in December 2007. 

* The Technology Roadmap addresses machine-based language translation 
technologies. 

* The Technology Roadmap does not address language training 
technologies, stating that this area has been adequately covered by a 
previous DOD effort. 

The Technology Roadmap contains three goals with seven supporting 
tasks. The three goals are: 

* Establish a DOD process for regularly assessing language translation 
technologies and products. 

* Establish a process for assessing and recommending materiel and non-
materiel solutions to language capability needs. 

* Assist the DOD, defense agencies, Joint Staff, and services in 
identifying technological options, and their maturity levels, to meet 
emerging language requirements. 

In addition, USD (AT&L) is leading an effort, known as the Human Social 
Culture Behavior Modeling program, to develop software tools and 
decision aids that could allow U.S. commanders to better understand 
different cultures. 

[End of Objective 4] 

[End of Briefing Presentation] 

Footnotes: 

[1] The federal Interagency Language Roundtable scale is a measure for 
assessing an individualís foreign language proficiency. It uses a scale 
from 0 (no proficiency) to 5 (educated native proficiency) in order to 
measure listening, reading, and speaking ability in the foreign 
language.A ď+Ē indicates a half step. 

[2] GAO, Results-Oriented Cultures: Implementation Steps to Assist 
Mergers and Organizational Transformations, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-669] (Washington, D.C.: July 2, 
2003). 

[End of section] 

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