[lg policy] U.S. Military Slashes Foreign-Language Training

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed May 15 12:25:02 EDT 2019


U.S. Military Slashes Foreign-Language TrainingThe cut to immersion
programs comes as the Pentagon redirects resources to Trump’s border wall
and reduces America’s troop presence overseas.
BY LARA SELIGMAN <https://foreignpolicy.com/author/lara-seligman/> | MAY
13, 2019, 5:46 PM
[image: Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Training and Doctrine Command
David Halverson observes an Arabic immersion class at the Defense Language
Institute Foreign Language Center's facility in Seaside, California, on
Feb. 20.]
Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Training and Doctrine Command David
Halverson observes an Arabic immersion class at the Defense Language
Institute Foreign Language Center's facility in Seaside, California, on
Feb. 20. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PHOTO

As U.S. President Donald Trump diverts more military resources to his
long-promised wall with Mexico and seeks to reduce the United States’ troop
presence abroad, his Pentagon is slashing funding for the Defense Language
Institute’s overseas immersion programs, which help prepare students for
duty abroad.

About 700 foreign-language students were preparing for their immersion
courses when their funding was abruptly pulled this year.
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“We were in the process of getting visas, and they cut it,” said one
student whose Spanish-language immersion to Chile was cut in February.
“They had already bought our flights.”

The cancellation of the Defense Language Institute’s immersion programs for
all of fiscal year 2019 is part of a broader mandate by the U.S. Army to
reduce spending on what the military calls “temporary duty”—travel or a
limited assignment to a location other than the soldiers’ permanent duty
station, said institute spokesperson Natela Cutter.

The Defense Language Institute cut is temporary; barring further guidance,
the school intends to restart its immersion activities in fiscal year 2020,
Cutter stressed.

The decision was not tied to Trump’s long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico
border, a senior defense official told *Foreign Policy*. But it comes as
the Pentagon is diverting billions of dollars from other military
priorities—construction projects, the war in Afghanistan
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/05/10/pentagon-will-shift-an-additional-billion-help-fund-trumps-border-wall/?utm_term=.f437ffb4ae63>,
and a new nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/05/12/pentagon-will-pull-money-ballistic-missile-surveillance-plane-programs-fund-border-wall/?utm_term=.db5b711f1288>,
to name a few—to fund the wall and border deployment.

“There is probably no better rhetorical analogy for this administration’s
foreign policy than cutting Spanish language immersion programs [while
building] a wall on the Southern border,” said the student, who requested
anonymity.

The cut also comes as the Trump administration seeks to reduce U.S.
military presence around the globe, withdrawing forces stationed in Syria
and Africa
<https://www.voanews.com/a/will-us-military-complete-planned-troop-cuts-in-africa-/4818517.html>
.

On a macro level, the temporary duty cut will have a “pretty mild” impact,
primarily manifesting in delays or cancellation of travel for conferences
or courses, said Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis at
the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But for the individual soldier, “it can be very disruptive” to career
development, he said.

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[image: U.S. President Donald Trump, center, with Homeland Security
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Reggie Singh, the brother of a police
officer who was allegedly killed by a man in the United States illegally,
speaks during his visit to U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station in McAllen,
Texas, on Jan. 10. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)]
<https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/10/us-military-readies-to-pay-for-trump-border-wall-pentagon/>
U.S. Military Readies to Pay for Trump’s Border Wall
<https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/10/us-military-readies-to-pay-for-trump-border-wall-pentagon/>

The Pentagon is looking through its accounts for spare change in case the
president declares a national emergency.
REPORT  <https://foreignpolicy.com/category/report/>| LARA SELIGMAN
<https://foreignpolicy.com/author/lara-seligman/>

For the Defense Language Institute students, many of whom are preparing for
foreign area officer postings, exchange officer programs, or intelligence
analyst jobs, the three-week to six-week in-country immersion programs are “
irreplaceable
<https://www.dliflc.edu/academics/immersion-language-office/#homepage-tab%7C2>,”
both for language training and cultural understanding, according to the
institute’s website.

Students who participate in the Defense Language Institute’s in-country
immersion programs attend language and culture classes with the host
institute and take part in daily “out-of-class activities” and weekly
excursions, according to the institute. The school, which attracts students
from the four U.S. military services, not just the Army, conducts programs
all over the world, from Latin America to Africa and Asia.

During fiscal year 2018, the Army spent more than $1.5 billion on temporary
duty expenses, Army Secretary Mark Esper wrote in a Jan. 15 memo obtained
by *Foreign Policy*. Temporary duty assignments usually come with per diem
pay, covering lodges, meals, and incidentals.

In the memo, which was distributed across the Army, Esper directed the
service to reduce temporary duty expenses by 10 percent in order to focus
resources on “higher priorities.” These areas are “readiness, modernization
and reform,” according to an Army spokesperson.

“It is about leveraging information technology rather than travel,” a
senior defense official told *Foreign Policy*of the change. “It is really
about getting people to think about doing things better as part of
[Esper’s] reform line of effort—being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

The last time the U.S. military cut temporary duty expenditures was 2013,
as a way to offset congressionally mandated budget cuts under
sequestration, Harrison said.

“Normally that’s the kind of thing that gets cut when you see the budget
declining,” he said, noting that it is odd that the Army’s temporary duty
cut comes as the U.S. military’s budget is increasing year after year.

But despite increasing budgets, the Army has been rummaging in the couch
cushions to come up with additional resources for modernization and
reforms. The temporary duty cut was part of what the Army calls the “night
court”
<https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/ausa/2018/10/08/armys-night-court-finds-25-billion-to-reinvest-in-modernization-priorities/>
process,
which took a detailed look at existing programs to see which ones were
essential to the service’s goals, the senior official said.

As of October 2018, the service had found roughly $25 billion through the
night court process to apply to its top priorities, which include a
next-generation combat vehicle, air and missile defense, and increasing
soldier lethality.

“Even though budgets are increasing, reform goes on because you can always
modernize faster,” the official added.

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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