Defense Language Transformation Roadmap (2005)


Post 9/11 military operations reinforce the reality that the Department of Defense needs a significantly improved organic capability in emerging languages and dialects, a greater competence and regional area skills in those languages and dialects, and a surge capability to rapidly expand its language capabilities on short notice. The Strategic Planning Guidance (SPG) for FY 2006-2011 directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (USD (P&R)) to develop and provide to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef), a comprehensive roadmap for achieving the full range of language capabilities necessary to support the 2004 Defense Strategy. The SPG established four goals for language transformation:

1. Create foundational language and cultural expertise in the officer, civilian, and enlisted ranks for both 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 ability (reading/listening/speaking ability).

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



The Roadmap was built upon the results of a series of actions taken within the Department over the last two years.

In November 2002, USD (P&R) directed each Military Department, Combatant Command (COCOM), and Defense Agency to review its requirements for language professionals, including interpreters, translators, crypto-linguists, interrogators, and area specialists, including enlisted, officer, and civilian personnel. The review resulted in narrowly scoped requirements based on current manning authorizations instead of requirements based upon recent operational experience and projected needs.

In August 2003, the USD (P&R) directed a formal review of the operations, plans, funding, governance and physical facilities of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). The purpose of the review was to determine whether the DLIFLC was appropriately tasked, configured, resourced, operated and managed to meet the needs of the Department. The study articulated the needs for qualitative improvement in language skills of graduates and robust support to other Defense Components; i.e., beyond the Intelligence Community.

In September 2003, the Deputy Under Secretary for Plans (DUSD (Plans)), commissioned a study of five language functions: language management within the COCOMs; management of Foreign Area Officers (FAO) within the Services; development of foreign language and regional knowledge in the officer corps; management of language personnel; and requirements determination processes for assessing language needs. The Roadmap builds upon the study recommendations.

During January-July 2004, DUSD (Plans) assembled a Defense Language Transformation Team (DLTT) with representatives from the Military Departments, the National Security Agency, and the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The DLTT identified needed actions and laid the groundwork for Roadmap recommendations across the Department.

On May 10, 2004, DepSecDef directed USD (P&R) to appoint a DoD Senior Language Authority (SLA) and further directed the Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the COCOMs, and the Directors of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency each to appoint an SLA at the General/Flag Officer or Senior Executive Service or equivalent. The SLAs are responsible for assessing the organization’s language needs, tracking language assets assigned to the organization and identifying emerging policy requirements.

In this same memo, DepSecDef also directed the creation of a Defense Foreign Language Steering Committee (DFLSC) comprised of SLAs from the Services, Joint Staff, COCOMs and Defense Agencies in order to provide senior level guidance in the language transformation effort and f uture development of the Department’s language capabilities. The Under Secretaries of Defense (Comptroller), (Policy), and (Intelligence) were also asked to appoint members to the DFLSC.

From June through August 2004, the DFLSC oversaw the development of this Roadmap and, on August 31, fully approved the Roadmap’s assumptions, descriptions of the current situation, desired outcomes, and recommendations. Upon coordination, the recommendations became required actions. The DFLSC will assist the DoD SLA in overseeing the implementation of the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap and report progress to the USD (P&R) via recommended performance measures.