- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Four years into the war on terrorism, the intelligence community admits it is still short of fluent speakers of critical languages, particularly Arabic.
Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government didn't consider Arabic language skills a national security concern. Now officials are encountering myriad obstacles in trying to close the gap rapidly.
Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association and a former White House translator, said the CIA,
FBI, State Department, military intelligence and private companies with interests in the Middle East quickly hired the few American Arabic speakers who existed before Sept. 11.
More of those graduates are taking government jobs. The FBI had 216 Arabic-speaking employees and contract linguists in April 2004, up from 70 on Sept. 11, 2001. At the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, 441 students are studying Arabic this year, nearly four times the number in 2001. Specific numbers are not available from the CIA, but officials there say the numbers have increased.
"Those numbers are so paltry, it can keep doubling, and we'll still be well short of what we need," Brecht said. "There are more than 85 government agencies and offices with language requirements."
The intelligence community's language needs don't end with translators. Brecht said the lack of proficient Arabic speakers also has limited the United States' ability to spread its message and participate in debate in the Arab world.