Washington D.C. — Today, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee released a new report on the Department of Defense’s challenges in building foreign language skills and cultural competencies in today’s educational environment:

The full report can be found at http://www.house.gov/hasc .

            “Our military faces an age-old problem,” said Subcommittee Chairman Vic Snyder (D-AR). “American military forces need foreign language and cultural skills to operate more effectively.  In today’s and tomorrow’s national security environment, the demand for these skill sets may be even greater, given the range of missions our military personnel can be called on to perform.

“Language and cultural skills can save lives and even prevent conflict.  If you are the service member patrolling the streets, this is not some academic exercise.  It, literally, can be the difference between life and death.

Snyder continued, “The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Services are trying to enhance these skills, but they’ve inherited a national problem that slows them down considerably.

“Our educational system doesn’t make foreign language study a priority, and it doesn’t have the infrastructure to support widespread teaching of foreign languages, particularly those spoken where our forces are operating.  DoD and the nation's schools, however, cannot meet this challenge alone.  Congress has a responsibility, too, and must be prepared to do its part,” Snyder concluded.
            Subcommittee Ranking Member Todd Akin (R-MO) commented, “It is no secret that the ability to communicate and understand a foreign culture can make the jobs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines much easier – whether they are fighting insurgents in Iraq or delivering humanitarian supplies after a tsunami. This report reflects our subcommittee's effort to analyze how important these skills truly are, and how these skills should be developed both within the military community and our nation as a whole.”