182. Paper Prepared by the Professional Development Committee1


The question has been raised whether the Department’s career development and training package would be stronger if it included more emphasis on language training for FSOs—an area often highlighted by the Department’s public and Congressional critics. This paper examines what our real needs are with regard to FSO language training and suggests some possibilities for giving additional emphasis to language training for FSOs in the package.


Our language requirements for FSOs are three:

1. Survival level for all.

2. At least minimal professional facility (S–3/R–3 on FSI’s scale)2 for officers in language-designated positions (LDPs)—mostly political, economic and program direction positions.

3. Competence beyond 3/3 for the most demanding positions. We are basically in good shape with regard to the second requirement. Our current 73% compliance rate in filling “LDP” positions is not far from the optimum we can expect through training, given the complexities of the assignment system. On the first and third requirements we do less well and improvement is necessary.

Our current career development and training packages include 45 positions (30 in ’82, 15 in ’83) to give Familiarization and Short-Term (FAST) courses to virtually all Foreign Service Staff personnel, but not to FSOs. We estimate that of the FSOs assigned each year to non-LDP positions, 275 arrive at foreign language posts without any knowledge of the language. One hundred eighty-five of these officers go to posts having languages that are included in the 14 FAST courses now under development. We estimate it would require 40 student/years (posi[Page 730]tions) to give FAST courses to all FSOs who now get no language training.

In addition, enhanced training for officers going to LDPs is clearly needed in order to make them more effective in a timely manner. We know that some officers in reporting and analysis positions, as well as key senior officers, need language proficiency at the 3+ or 4 level.

These needs suggest the following objectives for an amended foreign language component of a career development and training package.


1. To give all Foreign Service personnel at least a social/survival level of competence in the language of the post of assignment.

2. To give employees in language-designated positions a level of competence equal to the requirements of the position.

3. To give officers in key positions a level of competence approaching Full Professional Proficiency (4/4). We could meet these objectives by a phased program beginning in FY ’81, and fully implemented by FY ’83:

A. FY ’81

1. Develop and introduce 14 FAST courses (6 and 10 weeks) for voluntary participation of Foreign Service Staff personnel, dependents, and FSOs in non-LDPs.

2. Encourage employees to achieve high levels of competence in designated hard languages (those on incentive language list) through a system of bonus payments equal to 10% of salary for 3/3 and 15% for 4/4 (implementing regulations will be promulgated momentarily and PER will amend its FY ’81 financial plan to include $300,000 for this purpose).

Resource Requirements (from PPG)

Positions: None

Operating funds: $40,000

B. FY ’82

1. Assign FSSs and FSOs going to non-LDPs at posts where the 14 languages are used, to FAST courses, unless this causes schooling problems for families which would not otherwise arise (see below). Where posts and employees seek a “waiver”, it should be granted.

2. Improve percentage of students who achieve 3/3 in full-time language training through improved materials and methodology.

3. Enhance training beyond the 3/3 level for some officers through the following means:

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a. Establish course objectives of 3+/3+ for above-average students in full-time training; develop job-related content materials beyond 3/3 in designated critical languages.

b. Provide periods of advanced in-country language training for key officers in hard languages.

c. Provide training beyond 3/3 in post language programs for officers in key positions; support training through increased supervision and assistance by Regional Language Supervisors.

d. Expand incentive language bonus program to include additional hard languages (PER would need $350,000 in FY ’82 for this second phase).

Resource Requirements above current proposal to OMB

Positions: 15 student/years (for FSO FAST training in 14 languages)

Operating funds: $130,000 (which was taken from FSI’s FY ’81 base in our surgery resulting from the Congressional 5% cut of the Department’s appropriation) Although some funds requested in FY ’82 budget are designated for training beyond 3/3, without restoration of these funds the effort is under-funded.

C. FY ’83

1. Develop 16 more FAST courses

2. Routinely assign all Foreign Service employees going to foreign language posts and not getting longer language courses, to FAST courses, unless this causes schooling problems which would not otherwise arise (see below).

3. Further ensure achievement of competence above 3/3 by developing advanced materials in additional languages.

Resource Requirements

Positions: 15 (for FAST training)

Operating funds: $150,000 (for preparation and conduct of additional FAST courses)

Problem in full implementation

A serious obstacle to making FAST courses mandatory for all personnel is the problem of adequate time between posts of assignment for all employees with school age children and moving during the summer cycle. Although the 6-week hard language courses can probably be worked into transfer plans, some employees will find it difficult or unacceptable to disrupt schooling for their children in order for them to enroll in 10-week world language courses.

Proposed Solution

That employees with school age children who cannot be enrolled in 10-week FAST courses without interruption of children’s education [Page 732] be assigned to course only if they request it. This is estimated to affect an average of 50 employees per year (or 10 person/years of training).

Decision for Department Management

For FY ’82, all the courses and much of the instruction cost are already in the current proposal to OMB. However, 15 additional training positions would be needed (and 15 more in FY ’83) if the Department were to amend career development and training plans to include the language training objectives presented above.

Alternative to Recommend Course

Open 14 planned FAST courses to FSOs on an “as-requested” basis only.

Estimated cost: about 10 positions.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1980, Box 7, Chron October 11–18, 1980. No classification marking. Printed from a copy bearing Read’s stamped initials. The Professional Development Committee was established by Read to review the Department’s career development and training. See Document 180.
  2. These indicate proficiency in speaking and reading a foreign language. On a scale of 0 to 5, a 3/3 indicates general professional proficiency for speaking and reading.