Need to Improve Foreign Language Training Programs and Assignments for Department of Defense Personnel

ID-76-73: Published: Nov 24, 1976. Publicly Released: Nov 24, 1976.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) requires a large number of personnel with foreign language skills and conducts an extensive language training program to meet this need.

In a January 1973 report, GAO identified several areas where DOD needed to improve its training program and assignment procedures. A number of personnel assigned to language essential positions in overseas activities did not have the required language skills. The impact of assigning personnel who lack language skills to language essential positions is not readily quantifiable, but many incumbents felt that they were not as effective in their work as they could be with the required language skills. Personnel who lacked the necessary language skills were assigned to language essential positions because they did not: (1) receive language training before assignments; (2) have time to complete training; or (3) achieve desired proficiency levels after completing training. Criteria used to identify positions requiring foreign language skills need to be improved.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: DOD should: (1) review procedures for selecting language candidates and for assigning personnel to language essential positions; (2) set criteria to help local commanders identify jobs needing language skills; (3) determine whether language essential positions are appropriately staffed; (4) periodically retest language proficiency; (5) establish better control over command-sponsored language programs; and (6) coordinate them with Defense Language Institutes.

    Agency Affected:


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