Assessing Culture and Regional Training Programs Across DoD: After-Action Report

As military forces grapple with the complexities of 21st Century defense strategies, the importance of cultural readiness has never been more important. The U.S. and its allies currently face threats from state and nonstate actors, and future conflicts will become increasing complex, involving all domains and cutting across multiple geographic regions. These conflicts are as much about ideology as they are about defense superiority. To maintain its competitive advantage, U.S. forces must adapt to a changing security landscape by viewing challenges globally and holistically. This requires culturally intelligent leaders who understand the motivations of their partners and their enemies. 

Meanwhile, billions of dollars have been spent on cultural training programs for Department of Defense (DoD) personnel and military forces. Which training programs effectively equip forces with the smart power needed to intelligently understand the populations they’re within and among? What training is most strategic? And which ones are a waste of tax payers’ money? 

A reliable, valid approach for assessing cultural readiness is critical to ensure mission success, preservation of life, and a return on investment from cultural training. Research proves the cultural intelligence is uniquely suited to address that need. 

The report that follows is the after-action report from the Assessing Culture and Regional Training Programs Across DoD project commissioned by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), Contract # H9821018C0004. The project called for the expanded and strategic use of the CQ Military Survey across DoD. The primary objectives of this project were 1) to help the forces assess and develop the individual capabilities necessary for cultural readiness, 2) predict the kinds of cross-functions for which military personnel are properly suited, and 3) provide an empirically rigorous, relevant tool for evaluating and improving culture training programs. 

The work performed involved assessing the cultural intelligence of individuals from multiple sample populations across DoD using 2,500 Pre (T1) and Post (T2) CQ Military Surveys. The Cultural Intelligence Center (CQC) worked with DLNSEO to identify test populations and training programs to assess as part of the contracted work. 

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE, or CQ®, is a globally recognized way of assessing, measuring, and improving effectiveness in culturally diverse situations. It’s rooted in rigorous, academic research conducted across more than 100 countries. 

Forces that have personnel with high CQ can expect: 

  • Successful Deployment: Accomplishing missions across diverse cultures and regions 
  • High-Quality Relationship Building with Local Communities: Anticipating how to best engage with community leaders and civilians to build trusting partnerships 
  • Speed and Strategic Gains: Accomplishing results more efficiently and strategically in culturally diverse contexts 
  • Efficiencies and Cost Savings: High-quality results and return on investment when personnel have high CQ 
  • Diverse Unit Effectiveness: Effective communication and performance across different service branches, government agencies, ethnicities, ranks, gender, etc. 
  • Saved Lives: Mitigating risk amidst the increased challenges of 21st warfare 

The work performed for this contract included administering assessments to the following populations: 

  • U.S. Army Special Warfare Education Group (SWEG) Officers 
  • U.S. Army Special Warfare Education Group (SWEG) NCOs 
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) 
  • 300th Military Intelligence Brigade 
  • U.S. Army TRADOC Cultural Training and Leadership Program (CU&LP) Cadets Returning from CU&LP (Spring/Summer 2018, Post-Assessment) 
  • U.S. Army TRADOC Cultural Training and Leadership Program (CU&LP) Cadets Prior to CU&LP (Fall 2018, Pre-Assessment) 
  • U.S. DoD Open Program (sampling of participants across DoD) 

As a result of the project, a diverse set of stakeholders across the Department had a chance to test out the assessment and develop strategic plans for integrating it as a developmental and assessment tool in myriad programs. In addition, the findings gathered from the assessments offered insights for the individual participants and the respective training programs regarding strengths and weaknesses in the participants’ cultural readiness. Finally, the project offers the respective programs and the broader community a foundation for understanding the effectiveness of DoD culture training programs and individual cultural readiness.