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Introduction of National Security Language Act

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Location: Washington, DC


INTRODUCTION OF NATIONAL SECURITY LANGUAGE ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - January 04, 2005)

SPEECH OF HON. RUSH D. HOLT OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2005

* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, we can no longer keep our nation safe if we do not commit ourselves to learning the languages and cultures of critical areas around the world. The security of our troops overseas and the American people here at home demand that we act quickly to eliminate the severe shortage of critical need language professionals in this country. While the last Congress has taken some steps, we have not done enough.

* That's why I rise today to introduce legislation, the National Security Language Act, which would significantly expand our investment in foreign language education on the primary, secondary, and post-secondary level.

* Al Qaeda operates in over 75 countries, where hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken. However, 99 percent of American high school, college and university programs concentrate on a dozen (mostly European) languages. In fact, more college students currently study Ancient Greek (20,858) than Arabic (10,596), Korean (5,211), Persian (1,117), and Pashto (14) put together. We need to do more to make sure that America has the language professionals necessary to defend our national security. This cannot be done overnight. We are already years overdue.

* The 911 Congressional Joint Inquiry reports our intelligence community is at 30 percent readiness in languages critical to national security. Despite this alarming statistic, we do not appear to be taking the necessary aggressive action to address this problem. Various agencies are making efforts to hire more linguists. When I asked a panel of intelligence experts at a recent Intelligence hearing what the federal, government is doing to increase the pool of critical need language professionals from which they hire these linguists, they answered with silence. Two years after the events of September 11, we are still failing to address one the most fundamental security problems facing this nation.

* Changing our recruiting methods alone will not solve the problem. To meet new security needs, we need to create a new domestic pool of foreign language experts and we can only do that by investing in the classroom.

* The National Security Language Act would expand federal investment in education in foreign languages of critical need, such as Arabic, Persian, Korean, Pashto, and Chinese. Specifically, my bill would provide loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 for university students who major in a critical need foreign language and then take a job either in the federal workforce or as a language teacher. It would provide new grants to American universities to establish intensive in-country language study programs and to develop programs that encourage students to pursue advanced science and technology studies in a foreign language.

* My bill would also establish grants for foreign language partnerships between local school districts and foreign language departments at institutions of higher education. And it would authorize a national study to identify heritage communities here in the United States with native speakers of critical foreign languages and make them targets of a federal marketing campaign encouraging students to pursue degrees in those languages.

* Just as the National Defense Education Act of 1958 created a generation of scientists, engineers, and Russian linguists to confront the enemy of that time, the National Security Language Act will give us a generation of Americans able to confront the new threats we face today.

http://thomas.loc.gov

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