The Strategic Value of Foreign Area Officers

August, 2013
IDA document: D-4974
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents
Division: Intelligence Analyses Division , Global Dynamics and Intelligence Division
Amy A. Alrich, Joseph Adams, Claudio C. Biltoc See more authors
In his December speech delivered at the National Press Club, “The Force of the 21st Century,” Secretary of Defense Panetta emphasized the need for a smaller, leaner, agile, and flexible military, adept at building partnership capacity and security cooperation. Panetta’s speech echoed and reinforced the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance document “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” Both this speech and the Defense Strategic Guidance document emphasize the need to cultivate partnerships with other nations. Central among the conventional forces critical in such missions are the Foreign Area Officers (FAOs). The FAO community consists of language enabled, regional experts—Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Foreign Area Officers, as well as the Air Force’s Regional Area Strategists. FAOs represent the most concentrated source of foreign language capabilities, cultural and regional expertise in uniform. The Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1315.20 requires each of the Services to maintain a FAO program. The variations across the Services include how FAOs are selected, accessed, trained, employed, and managed. This document summarizes IDA’s examination of the FAO career path, focusing on the variations across the Services’ programs, the professional experiences of FAOs, and their supervisors’ perspectives on FAOs’ strategic value.