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Highlights

The Department of Defense (DOD) has emphasized the importance of developing language skills and knowledge of foreign cultures to meet current and future needs and is investing millions of dollars to provide language and culture predeployment training to its general purpose forces. DOD has also noted that such training should be viewed as a long-term investment and that training and personnel systems should better account for the knowledge and skills of service members acquired through training to help manage its forces. The committee report accompanying a proposed bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136) directed GAO to review language and culture training for Army and Marine Corps general purpose forces. For this report, GAO evaluated the extent to which these services (1) captured information in training and personnel systems on the completion of language and culture predeployment training and proficiency gained from training and (2) developed plans to sustain language skills acquired through predeployment training. GAO analyzed service documents and interviewed cognizant officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To provide decision makers with greater visibility on the language and culture knowledge and skills of Army and Marine Corps general purpose forces that could inform force management processes, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to establish clearly defined data fields for all mandatory language and culture training tasks within the Digital Training Management System and update Digital Training Management System records for soldiers who completed training prior to these fields being established.
Closed - Implemented
The Army added data fields to the Digital Training Management System that could be used to capture individual completion of culturally based language training courses, consistent with GAO's recommendation. In May 2016, the Army noted that the Digital Training Management System is capable of recording training for any topic that a unit records, including language and culture training which is certified as completed by the local unit commander.
Department of Defense 2. To provide decision makers with greater visibility on the language and culture knowledge and skills of Army and Marine Corps general purpose forces that could inform force management processes, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to document the language proficiency for soldiers completing predeployment language training within the Digital Training Management System and the Army Training Requirements and Resources System.
Closed - Implemented
The Army modified functions of the Army Training Requirements and Resources System to require a proficiency score for Language Culture Training Courses and assigned a specific "select code" for all language and culture training courses, which includes the capability for reports to be produced by the system to track and analyze language proficiency scores. In May 2016, the Army also reported that the Digital Training Management System is capable of recording completed training for any topic that a unit records, including language and culture training which is certified as completed by the local unit commander.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to designate which training and/or personnel systems the Marine Corps should use to document the completion of marines' language and culture training.
Closed - Implemented
In December 2011, the Marine Corps affirmed in a comprehensive briefing to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs on the findings and recommendations outlined in GAO-12-50, that the Marine Corps would track validated language proficiency, as measured on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale by a Defense Language Proficiency Test or Oral Proficiency Interview, via the Marine Corps Total Force System and that the Marine Corps Training Information Management System would be the mechanism to document and track institutional, unit, and individual training, to include language and culture training received by the General Purpose Forces via the Marine Corps Regional, Culture, and Language Familiarization program, predeployment training, and other venues.
Department of Defense 4. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to administer formal tests to marines completing a significant language training event using DOD's agreed-upon method to measure proficiency, and ensure the results of these tests are documented in marines' personnel records within the Marine Corps Total Force System.
Closed - Implemented
In June 2012, according to the DODIG, the Marine Corps began issuing formal tests (the Very Low Range Defense Language Proficiency Test or an Oral Proficiency Interview to select the General Purpose Forces Marines who complete significant language training during the predeployment training, and documenting any proficiency in the Marine Corps Total Force System. We are awaiting documentation to confirm the Marine Corps actions.
Department of the Navy 5. To capitalize on the investments in time and resources made in providing language training to service members, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to determine which soldiers and marines with language skills require follow-on training, the amount of training required, and appropriate mechanisms for delivering the training, and make any adjustments to training programs that may be needed.
Closed - Implemented
The Marine Corps has determined a sustainment training program. Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council Decision Memorandum 38-2012, signed in May 2012, directed the full implementation of the Regional, Culture, and Language Familiarization Program, a career length education program for all Marines in the ranks of sergeant and above, and makes completion of each rank-appropriate educational block a requirement in order for an individual to be considered complete for professional military education in grade. Additionally, according to Marine Corps Administrative Message 619/12, Implementation of the Regional, Culture, and Language Familiarization Program, signed in October 2012, the program develops and sustains an operational language, regional, and cultural capability in career marines across the total force.
Department of the Army 6. To capitalize on the investments in time and resources made in providing language training to service members, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to determine which soldiers and marines with language skills require follow-on training, the amount of training required, and appropriate mechanisms for delivering the training, and make any adjustments to training programs that may be needed.
Closed - Implemented
The Army has determined a sustainment training program consisting of live instructors for select general purpose force soldiers and recommends the completion of Headstart2 , an online program that focuses on basic communication as well as military topics such as public safety and medical situations.

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