Career Enhancement and Sustainment

To support the DoD’s global mission, the Department and respective Military Departments deliberately develop, maintain, and manage a corps of Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) who are language-enabled policy professionals proficient in one or more predominant foreign languages of the country or region assigned, with the goal of achieving professional level proficiency in listening, reading, and speaking.

FAOs are commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps fully qualified in their primary military occupational specialty prior to accession as a FAO. They possess graduate-level education focused on, but not limited to, the historical, political, military/security, cultural, sociological, scientific/technical, economic, and geographic factors of specific foreign countries and regions. After accession, FAOs undergo in-region training of not less than six months involving significant interaction with host-nation nationals and entities in the region in which the FAO will specialize. FAOs must meet minimum language proficiency standards to become fully qualified.

Experienced FAOs are given the opportunity to participate in the Joint FAO Regional Skill Sustainment Program, an initiative under the Language Training Center Program with a grant awarded to George Washington University (GWU). The Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) provides oversight of the program in coordination with the U.S. Navy as the DoD partner in the execution of the program.

The Joint FAO Regional Skill Sustainment Program offers experienced FAOs the opportunity to meet with recognized experts for their regions from academe, government, think tanks and NGOs, exchange ideas with counterparts from other Services, and receive updates on policies and developments that affect their profession. Students gain knowledge and deepen their understanding of contemporary security issues in their command’s area of responsibility and gain a greater understanding of the strategic context for meeting regional security challenges. They consider the impact of recent developments in the region for U.S. security policies for states and third-party actors.

The 20-hour program at the GWU Elliot School allows FAOs to keep current on regional developments while they perform duties outside of their regions and to support the exchange of information between those returning from assignment and those preparing to deploy.

Each year, the program offers five regionally focused seminars and two trans-regional seminars to 25-30 FAOs per course. The courses are held over the course of four days. DLNSEO and GWU advertise Joint FAO Regional Skill Sustainment Program courses to eligible FAOs through the combatant commands and Service FAO Proponent offices.