Cover: Meeting the Language and Culture Training Needs of U.S. Department of Defense Personnel

Meeting the Language and Culture Training Needs of U.S. Department of Defense Personnel

An Evaluation of the Language Training Center Program

Published May 13, 2019

by Jennifer J. Li, Richard S. Girven, Norah Griffin


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Research Questions

  1. Is the LTC Program fulfilling the mandate of the legislation?
  2. How are LTCs leveraging the existing infrastructure for language instruction at institutions of higher education?
  3. What practices are in place, and where are there opportunities for improvement?
  4. How can the LTC Program improve its metrics and assessments?
  5. What factors affect how the LTCs use the funds provided?

The U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD's) Language Training Center (LTC) Program leverages the expertise and infrastructure of institutions of higher education to train DoD personnel in language, culture, and regional area studies. The Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) asked the RAND Corporation to examine the LTC Program, which was established in 2011 and included centers at nine universities in the fiscal year 2017 grant cycle. This evaluation was meant to assist DoD in making informed decisions about the viability and continuation of the program. Through site visits to each of the nine centers, interviews, and analysis of program data, RAND researchers found that the LTC Program is meeting the vast majority of the requirements of its authorizing legislation: building skills in language and area studies, providing language training in critical and strategic languages for operational readiness, and using alternative language training delivery systems to provide training to a wide variety of DoD partners.

A key recommendation is for DLNSEO and its administrative partner, the Institute of International Education, to encourage each LTC to articulate objectives that go beyond provision of training and represent meaningful training outcomes for the DoD partners and students. The challenges that lie ahead will be to (1) encourage increased consistency across the program in areas where it makes sense while still providing opportunities for uniqueness and creativity at each of the LTCs and (2) increase meaningful measurement of outcomes while continuing to support responsiveness, innovation, and, potentially, further growth.

Key Findings

Fulfilling its mandate, with opportunities to become stronger

  • Overall, the LTC Program is meeting the requirements of its authorizing legislation.
  • The infrastructure at institutions of higher education provides LTCs benefits, but with trade-offs.
  • As expected, LTC practices vary, with room for improvement to encourage a more cohesive and collaborative professional community.
  • LTCs varied in how they measured outcomes.
  • Variations in LTC capacity utilization suggest that DoD partners are not taking full advantage of the program.


  • Foster a greater ongoing program-wide focus on meaningful outcomes, not just provision of training. Encourage the LTCs to articulate objectives that go beyond provision of training and represent meaningful proficiency, skill, or knowledge outcomes for the DoD partners and students they serve.
  • Over time, encourage and build a culture of professional collaboration among LTCs.
  • Explore ways to help DoD partners more fully utilize the training capacity provided. Establish a means to share information about available training with a broader range of DoD entities, so that if the DoD partner that requested the training does not fill the available spaces, other DoD personnel would be able to enroll.

This research was sponsored by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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