An Assessment of the Ability of the U.S. Department of Defense and the Services to Measure and Track Language and Culture Training and Capabilities Among General Purpose Forces

by Jennifer DeCamp, Sarah O. Meadows, Barry Costa, Kayla M. Williams, John Bornmann, Mark Overton

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Research Questions

  1. According to the best available data, what is the relevance of language, regional expertise, and culture training and capabilities to overall unit readiness and mission accomplishment among general purpose forces?
  2. How does the U.S. Department of Defense currently track language, regional expertise, and culture training and capabilities of general purpose forces?
  3. To what extent does this tracking reflect unit readiness and the ability to accomplish missions?
  4. How can the U.S. Department of Defense improve tracking of language, regional expertise, and culture training and capabilities to adequately reflect unit readiness?

The Defense Language Office tasked MITRE Corporation and the RAND National Defense Research Institute to jointly address questions concerning the U.S. Department of Defense's ability to measure and track the language, regional expertise, and culture (LREC) training and capabilities of general purpose forces (GPF). The authors used interviews with LREC practitioners and policymakers, a policy review, an academic literature review, and an analysis of survey data to address the research questions. Immediate recommendations include standardizing terms, developing measures of mission effectiveness, and collecting data to assess connections between LREC training and skills and mission success. Long-term planning should include efforts to develop a strong infrastructure across LREC stakeholders such that information can easily be shared, a theoretically sound causal model linking LREC skills to mission success, and tests of skills linked to mission readiness. The ultimate goal of these activities is to develop a set of readiness metrics, both at the general level for all GPF and at the mission-specific level, when specialized LREC skills may be required.

Key Findings

Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Could Matter

  • Most interviewees believed that language, regional expertise, and culture capabilities are critical to the readiness and effectiveness of some units performing specific missions.
  • Many interviewees stated that language, regional expertise, and culture capabilities are needed but that each unit or individual does not necessarily need the same types and mixes of skills as every other unit or individual.
  • Because many of the required language, regional expertise, and culture skills differ by mission and task, it is critical to measure language, regional expertise, and culture mission readiness at the mission and task levels.
  • There have yet to be any rigorous, formal studies of whether receipt of language, regional expertise, and culture training is linked to improved individual job performance or unit mission accomplishment in the military.
  • Studies suggest that some basic knowledge is useful, but they do not indicate that these skills are essential for successfully performing one's job. Further, this line of research does not establish a causal link between language, regional expertise, and culture and mission effectiveness.

Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Training and Capabilities Are Not Well-Tracked

  • There is little systematic tracking of language, regional expertise, and culture training and capabilities of general purpose forces.
  • The Language Readiness Index tracks language qualifications but does not include data on regional expertise or culture.

Tracking of Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Training and Capabilities Does Not Reflect Mission Readiness

  • All interviewees indicated that tracking of language and culture is insufficient to adequately reflect unit readiness and the ability to accomplish missions.

Recommendations

  • Standardize language, regional expertise, and culture — related terms.
  • Develop measures of mission effectiveness.
  • Develop standardized language, regional expertise, and culture after-action reports to assess the link between language, regional expertise, and culture training and capabilities and mission success and effectiveness.
  • Develop standardized surveys for deployed and recently deployed general purpose forces.
  • Develop an infrastructure for language, regional expertise, and culture data.
  • Develop a causal model linking language, regional expertise, and culture to mission success.
  • Develop tests of training that are associated with skills that have been linked to mission readiness.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methodology and Data

  • Chapter Three

    Impact of LREC Training and Capabilities on Mission Readiness and Accomplishment

  • Chapter Four

    The U.S. Department of Defense's Ability to Track LREC Training and Capabilities

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Policies and Directives Reviewed for This Analysis

  • Appendix B

    Interview List

  • Appendix C

    Interview Questions

  • Appendix D

    Five-Percent Confidence Intervals for the Status-of-Forces Analysis

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted jointly by the MITRE Corporation's Department of Social, Behavioral, and Linguistic Sciences and the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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