How Many Government Agencies Does It Take To Teach Soldiers Arabic?
A pathetic case of Pentagon incompetence.
For instance: "Publish a DoD Instruction providing guidance for language program management." The deadline: July 2005. That's 11 months—not to come up with a program, but to issue guidance for managing the program.
Or: "Develop a language readiness index" to "measure capabilities and identify gaps." Deadline: September 2005.
"Conduct a … screening of all military and civilian personnel for language skills," in order to establish a database. Deadline: December 2005.
"Ensure doctrine, policies, and planning-guidance reflect the need for language requirements in operational, contingency, and stabilization planning." Deadline: March 2006.
"To increase the pool of potential language personnel … ensure the automated Defense Language Aptitude Battery is available at appropriate locations … including recruiters, military entrance processing stations, ROTC staff, and Service Academy staffs, to identify recruits/cadets with language learning potential." Deadline: January 2007.
"Establish 'crash' or 'survival' courses for deploying forces." Deadline: September 2007.
"Develop and sustain a personnel information system that maintains accurate data on all DoD personnel skilled in foreign-language and regional expertise. Work closely to ensure stabilized data entry and management procedures." Deadline: September 2008.
And keep in mind: All of these tasks are simply to set up a management system for improving the military's language skills—not actually to begin improving the skills.
Some of these projects do involve slogging through the system, but is the muck so thick that it takes three years of slogging? As for the goals that are scheduled to be accomplished in the next year or two, it's hard to believe a small group of smart people couldn't get them done in a month or a week or, in some cases, a few hours.
In the three and a half years after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States built a massive arsenal, equipped an equally massive fighting force, and declared victory in a worldwide war over imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.
In the three and a half years after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, the U.S. government funded dozens—if not hundreds—of Russian-language and Russian-studies departments not just within the military but in high schools and colleges all across America.
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Donald Rumsfeld by Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.