Reimagining Intelligence and National Security Language Programs

Agenda Setter

Learning and teaching have quickly gone virtual due to coronavirus: schools, universities, museums, libraries, even zoos and gyms are delivering virtual learning experiences.  The need for virtual (and fast) applies to foreign language learning programs as well.  Out of necessity, we are all caught up in quickly finding solutions now that we likely view as temporary.  However, the current situation presents a unique opportunity for U.S. Intelligence Community and national security leaders of foreign language programs to perhaps reimagine their programs entirely through the lens of virtual instruction powered by technology.  They can assess what works and what does not and new ways to apply solutions.  Instead of returning to status quo once the current crisis is over, they will likely discover that optimizing for virtual teaching and learning with robust technology should be integrated into a new “normal” not by necessity but by choice.

The need for a multi-lingual workforce, particularly for intelligence and national security, is not new.  But neither are the challenges that the nation has struggled with over the years to create and sustain those skills.  Requirements for specific languages may change (fluctuating through the years from German in World War II to Pashtu more recently) but the need for us to communicate and interact with others in another language endures; languages are hard to acquire and easy to lose; not enough time and too many other priorities are always a challenge; threats remain complex, perhaps increasingly so.  What is different is the rapid advances of today’s technology that newly make new things possible – even before the current pandemic.  Coronavirus has put a spotlight on what technology can already do.  As we practice social distancing that has fully permeated the way we work, study, and live, it is thanks to technology that we can continue many of our daily activities, albeit from afar, via our computers, tablets, and phones.

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Agenda Setter

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