Just posted to the SWJ Library's Professional Military Education / Training section.

Report on the Proceedings: Conference on Professional Military Education.

Here is the Executive Summary:

On Saturday, March 25 2006, Rep. Steve Israel convened a conference: Rebuilding America’s Intellectual Arsenal, focusing on the status of Professional Military Education (PME), with a special focus on linguistic and cultural requirements.

Over 40 leaders from the Military and Civilian Academic Communities attended, including Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) the Ranking Minority Member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Plans, Ms. Gail McGinn.

Key and recurring themes throughout the discussions were a) the need to build and sustain a stronger language and cultural capability throughout the military; b) the related need to tie such studies to career progression; c) the status of the partnership between the military and civilian academia; and d) the organization of PME within the department.

The Defense Science Board 2004 summer study endorsed the need for both language and cultural awareness. How, then, does the Department change the way it values and develops language? The first step has been to identify language capability as a formal military requirement, bringing it within the requirements bureaucracy. Beyond working the requirements system, the Department also faces the challenge of changing military culture and incentives, for example building an expectation in the officer corps that foreign language capability is important to career advancement.

It was also noted that the services are building their own centers of excellence for language and cultural training, as well as working with the civilian American educational system through such programs as the Flagship University Language Program laid out in the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap. However, many of these programs are at an early stage of development or even consideration, and sustained support (attention, incentives, and resources) are critical.

Of course, language is already taught to non-native speakers in the armed forces through the Defense Language Institute (DLI) and other military schools. Participants noted that several steps have already been taken in regards to increasing language proficiency within the military. On a broader, but less focused scale, there have also been large increases in pre-deployment training (language and cultural sensitivity) for troops of all rank deploying overseas, and literally hundreds of thousands of language survival kits have been fielded. One concern is whether such efforts are ad-hoc or should be deepened and sustained in an integrated and expanded PME process at every level.

Efforts addressed in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) include the 09L program, increased pre-commissioning language requirements for officers, and new post-graduate PME opportunities in regional and cultural training.

Many at the conference agreed that these initiatives in the Department of Defense must be accompanied by a nationwide refocusing on the importance of international and cultural education, and language schools. Americans notoriously lag behind other Western nations in the quality and availability of language classes in their high schools, despite such programs as the National Security Language Initiative.

PME as a whole is gaining wider acceptance as a requirement for advancing military officers. At the same time, the number of officers attending military institutions of professional development is increasing. Still, the skills that develop with PME – language, cultural awareness, regional expertise – require the incentivization of such studies and career choices. It is not simply a matter of creating billets. It is incentivizing people to make the career choice to fill those billets. That means removing traditional cultural and career obstacles.

Perhaps the most critical discussion was over the “ownership” – or proponnency of Professional Military Education, along with cultural and linguistic training – in the Department. There is already a Joint office for PME, it is true, but there is no one central point of contact between the diverse range of PME institutions and requirements. This issue will require further consideration...