DOD Training:

Many DOD Linguists Do Not Meet Minimum Proficiency Standards

NSIAD-94-191: Published: Jul 12, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1994.

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Richard Davis
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) training of linguists engaged in intelligence-related activities, focusing on: (1) the language and technical training provided to DOD linguists; and (2) military service policies and procedures governing the management, training, and compensation of the linguist workforce.

GAO found that: (1) a significant number of linguists graduate from the DOD Defense Language Institute (DLI) without having met its established language proficiency standards; (2) although the number of DLI graduates has increased, a third of its students graduate below the required level-2 proficiency; (3) the military services often allow students who do not meet the proficiency standard at graduation to proceed to technical school; (4) many linguists' language proficiency declines up to 25 percent while attending technical school because their technical training focuses on developing non-language skills; (5) although many students regain their language proficiency, some do not regain the same level of proficiency they had at graduation from DLI; (6) the Army is the only military service that requires operating unit commanders to establish unit-level language maintenance programs; (7) the military services do not consistently award appropriate levels of language proficiency pay; and (8) two DOD primary language training schools may have classes that are duplicative and underenrolled because the two schools do not effectively coordinate their language class schedules.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD fully concurred with the report recommendation and indicated that it would examine matters raised in GAO's recommendation as part of its planned study of the foreign language proficiency pay program. GAO has been unable to follow up with DOD to determine what, if any, action has been taken on the recommendation, because the Director of Central Intelligence's (DCI) staff has refused to provide GAO information on defense program activities (such as the DOD linguist program) funded under the DCI's National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP). Given the DCI's unyielding position on GAO access to NFIP information, GAO does not expect now (or in the future) to be granted the kinds of access needed to follow up on this recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is no longer applicable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should review individual service practices for awarding foreign language proficiency pay to determine whether all linguists should receive equal pay for equal achievement and determine whether the current Army and Marine Corps practices of paying for less than level-2 proficiency should continue.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD achieved coordination through Defense foreign language program procedures.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and the Director, National Security Agency, to establish procedures for coordinating commercial language training class schedules.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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