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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. FARR. Madam Chair, I rise today to express my appreciation for the House Armed Services Committee's acceptance of my amendment on the importance of foreign language and cultural education in the military. While the concept of military-to-military engagement is not new, it has an increasing level of importance in our contemporary operating environment. While most military training focuses on servicemembers being able to engage with the enemy, it is equally important to educate servicemembers on cultures and foreign language so that when we partner with foreign militaries and engage in capacity building, we can speak their language and understand their culture.

The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Odierno, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral Stavridis, have argued that the future of our defense strategy requires strong relationships with capable partners. Unfortunately, there is a language and cultural capability gap in the Department of Defense, an organization that operates globally to accomplish its mission yet has less than 10% whom speak a second language. Effective partner capacity building requires the kind of relationships that cannot be built through using an interpreter alone.

Our military's ability to understand cultures and languages in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken a long and costly road. That road's most valuable lesson is that our military personnel need the capacity to understand foreign cultures and languages before they are deployed. The ability of our junior and senior military leaders to build partnerships and partner capacity requires training in culture and languages not only in times of conflict but also in times of peace.
Two world class military installations in my district provide this critically needed education to all the Services. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Naval Postgraduate School educate military personnel in the languages and cultures of our partners. Investment in language and culture enhances readiness for military intelligence, Special Forces, and general-purpose forces at a low cost. This capability enables servicemembers to connect with our partnering countries at the unit level where the mission is executed.

America's strategic challenges, including a pivot to the Pacific region that has more than 70 countries and more than 100 regional and national languages, will generate additional requirements for language and put additional strain on the current capacity for skilled foreign language analysts, Foreign Area Officers, military intelligence personnel, and attachés. We must meet the demand and respond proactively.

Madam Chair, again, I am appreciative of the committee's support of foreign language capability and cultural understanding in the military and look forward to working with them in the future to ensure our military is resourced to meet the strategic demands of the future.

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