After a yearlong hiring freeze during which it only replaced employees who left, Vienna-based contracting firm JTG is preparing to more than double its payroll from 23 to 53….
|—||R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists in GovernmentExecutive.com’s article, “Industry officials criticize ‘quota-driven’ Defense insourcing”.|
At risk of sounding like a broken record, the federal government is hard-pressed to meet the foreign language challenges is multifaceted. Although the lack of foreign language skills in the CIA was shocking to a commenter last week, the foreign language shortfall in the State Department might be even more surprising. We would assume that those responsible for our international diplomacy would have the language skills necessary to get the job done. However, as the GAO reminds us every couple of years, that just is not the case. Joe Davidson at the Washington Post reminded us of this fact, when he quoted United States Diplomat and former Undersecretary of State, John Negroponte, at recent AFSA forum:
The “greatest challenge,” according to Negroponte, is the need for officers who can speak the languages of the world.
“There is no substitute,” said the multilingual Negroponte, “for recruiting, training, deploying, retaining and retraining,” officers in languages and geography so they “develop the contacts, the knowledge, the insight, the local and area expertise” needed to help develop America’s foreign policy.
But State isn’t meeting that challenge well enough, according to the Government Accountability Office. In September, it said the department needs a comprehensive plan to address “persistent foreign language shortfalls.”
The GAO report released last year emphasized the need for a comprehensive plan to “more effectively guide its efforts and assess its progress in meeting its foreign language requirements.” According to the report, the State Department’s plan should include measurable goals and objectives to reduce their foreign language shortfalls, but will these measures be based solely on proficiency? Proficiency can be a rather ambiguous word, and, despite measures developed by the Interagency Language Roundtable and Foreign Service Institute, personnel deemed as “proficient” can still be found deficient when it comes to performing specific job tasks, especially when they require highly specialized subject matter expertise.
The State Department has built a strong apparatus for intensive language training, and a lack of resources may be a major culprit in their inability to close the gaps in their foreign language shortfalls. Benefiting from an increase in funding, Sec. Clinton is dedicated to the development of “Diplomacy 3.0” and its expansion of the Foreign Service with a recruiting emphasis on critical foreign language skills. Nevertheless, the measurement of foreign language acquisition solely on proficiency level fails to take performance into account. A major misconception exists that language is knowledge that can be acquired in a set amount of time, given the appropriate course of study. To fully acquire a language requires more than just the ability to read, write, listen and speak it; it also requires an understanding of culture and personality.
Proficiency testing should not be our only measure of language capabilities, especially for those at the front lines of diplomacy and national security. Reaching a minimum level of proficiency is only step one in the training needed to be able to perform in a foreign language. Once a certain level of proficiency is reached, the individual must be further trained and tested based on their understanding of the cultural, religious, business, and/or scientific domains they are attempting to master in a foreign language. We may still be struggling to reach acceptable proficiency levels, but we also need to consider the “big picture” issues and their potential solutions.
House Representative Mike Honda (D-Calif.) is pushing legislation that hopes to make the federal government take stock of our pressing need for language skills and reward those who utilize such skills with a 5% increase in their base pay. The bill introduced, known as the “One America, Many Voices Act” or the Bilingual Pay Bill, by the Congressman is certainly helps to recognize domestic language diversity, but is it really going to help our national security? While implementing a pay structure that rewards bilingual and multilingual federal employees cannot be a bad thing, this small step will do little to close the grievous language gap our national security efforts face today.
The real value of Honda’s legislation is essentially a catch-up game: enacting human resource policies that many state and local governments (and of course the private sector) have been in place for decades. Rep. Honda certainly recognized and emphasized this notion on his blog (which was also posted on HuffPo and Roll Call):
JTG President Muriel Jerome-O’Keeffe was recently interviewed by Sandra Erwin of National Defense Magazine. Check out the article with Muriel’s statements!
After getting dumped with record-setting snowfall over the past week, DC area businesses were nearly brought to a screeching halt. The federal government was closed for four straight days and became the butt of jokes for both Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert on his Report.
Although Comedy Central gave the Feds a hard time, Washington Technology pointed out that the snowstorm has provided federal agencies with their first big test for their teleworking programs. Although the private industry has been utilizing VPN and portal technologies for years so that employees may telecommute and work remotely, this is relatively new to many federal employees. It is incredible to imagine that the government should be able to shut down completely for four straight days, while many private businesses continued at virtually the same rate of productivity.
JTG underwrites Scientific and Technical Translation or Interpretation
Scholarship for the 2010-2011 academic year
VIENNA, VA (February 12, 2010) – JTG, inc., a US federal professional services provider specializing in mission support, analysis and intelligence, announced today, for the tenth consecutive year, its funding of a scholarship for students enrolled or planning to enroll in a degree program in scientific and technical translation or interpretation. JTG considers investing in the future of our nation’s linguistic analysis capabilities essential and has been funding this $2,500 non-renewable scholarship since 2001.
The scholarship award recipient for the 2010-2011 academic year would join the ranks of past winners from such esteemed graduate programs as the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Kent State University. “We are very proud to contribute to the education of the JTG scholarship recipients past, present and future,” commented JTG inc. President, Muriel Jérôme-O’Keeffe. “JTG believes that investing in the advanced education now will pay enormous dividends for the future of our linguistic capabilities and positively impact our global competitiveness and national security.”
VIENNA, VA (February 5, 2010) - JTG, inc., a US federal professional services provider specializing in mission support, analysis and intelligence, commends the Department of Defense for recognizing the variance of the private sector supporting national defense efforts. The QDR outlines a framework that aims to reduce private contractors to a pre 9/11 level, which would require a procurement process that integrates improved criteria, supply schedules, expense analysis and performance standards.
When pondering the bevy of national security and intelligence conferences around the world, a consumer electronics trade show does not seem like it would be a prime target for JTG. However, the innovation and value that we apply to our security and intelligence efforts often derives from the great people working in our language services division. As they have been doing for several years now, some of our JTG staff attended the 2010 International CES (owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association) in Las Vegas, January 6th- 8th, acting in both interpretive and administrative capacities.