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Research Questions

  1. How well does the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) fulfill its mission?
  2. How can the Defense Department's delivery of English language training be improved?

The Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) trains foreign nationals in English prior to their attending U.S. military education and training courses and plays a critical role in building partnerships. RAND was asked to evaluate demand, supply, pricing models, and other options to optimize DLIELC's output. The researchers examined DLIELC student data; interviewed DLIELC officials; and reviewed pertinent regulations, directives, instructions, and policy documents. They also conducted a comparative analysis of 12 similar organizations that had a security cooperation focus. They make recommendations in eight critical management areas: policy, business model/requirements, financial risk, technology, identity, assessment, manpower, and organization and advocacy. They then present an implementation plan that can integrate all the recommendations in a way that informs the leadership of Headquarters Air Education and Training Command and the DLIELC management of the implications of change throughout the organization.

Key Findings

The Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) Is a Complex Organization with a Maze of Guidance and Requirements

  • DLIELC lacks a robust requirements determination process and its business model is unable to meet variable demand.
  • Its current financial management practices have not been sufficiently established, so that agencies paying the costs of training may be exposed to additional financial risk.
  • It has not been introducing new technologies at a quick enough rate.
  • DLIELC's educational, military, and security cooperation roles are sometimes in conflict.
  • The lack of a formal and functioning assessment/evaluation process inhibits DLIELC from being capable of defining and assessing its own performance.
  • DLIELC's hiring process is unable to respond quickly to short-term and cyclical demand.

DLIELC Lacks an Institutional Advocate

  • This lack hinders long-term development.
  • DLIELC is isolated from institutional managerial oversight and from national-level security cooperation policy.


  • Fully review all applicable rules and regulations.
  • Create a governing Department of Defense (DoD) instruction and a consolidated Air Force instruction covering the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC).
  • Institute a process to more accurately depict demand.
  • Reduce seasonal peaks by delaying certain categories of students.
  • Improve utilization of existing instructors by restricting leave during peak season.
  • Create "breathing space" within existing supply via possible relocation of U.S. Army students or by the creation of a "finishing class."
  • Form a task force of senior leadership to implement cost recovery reform, review cost models, and fully cost DLIELC's activities.
  • Explore cost-effective means to deliver some English language training through distance learning.
  • Explore computerized training methods.
  • Deemphasize DLIELC's "academic" character.
  • Have more military personnel interact with international military.
  • Consider creating an alumni program.
  • Reemphasize and develop field trips and cultural activities.
  • Explore standard processes for training, development, and assessment.
  • Reevaluate current metrics to ensure they are clearly written, relevant, and inclusive of academic, military, and building partnerships objectives.
  • Establish a dedicated contracting vehicle to purchase English language instruction and support.
  • Use experts and consultants as a ready pool of language professionals to quickly fill gaps due to unforeseen student load fluctuations.
  • Ensure that an advocate or champion in DoD is actively involved in the requirements process.
  • Fully implement principles, practices, and norms established by AETC to ensure that DLIELC becomes more responsive and accountable to DoD policies and priorities.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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