Talk is Not Cheap

By Dan Dupont / November 10, 2011 at 10:45 PM

The Defense Department made a big contract announcement today in the area of foreign language services:

CWU, Inc., Clearwater, Fla. (W911W4-12-D-0008); Buffalo Group, Reston, Va. (W911W4-12-D-0007); Global Executive Management, Hudson, Fla. (W911W4-12-D-0006); Multi Lingual Solutions, Inc., Rockville, Md. (W911W4-12-D-0005); Strategic Intelligence Group, Fairfax, Va. (W911W4-12-D-0004); Strategic Solutions Unlimited, Inc., Fayetteville, N.C. (W911W4-12-D-0003); Szanca Solutions, Inc., Bedford, Pa. (W911W4-12-D-0002); and Valbin Corp., Bethesda, Md. (W911W4-12-D-0001), were awarded a $9,700,000,000 fixed-price and cost-reimbursable-task-order contract between 14 contractors. The award will provide for the procurement of foreign language services in support of the Defense Language Interpretation Translation Enterprise program. Work location will be determined with each task order, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 26, 2016. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 11 bids received. The U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity.

The announcement comes on the heels of a GAO report and subsequent hearing on language training, as Inside the Army reports this week:

The Army struggles to maintain and update records on language and culture training and has yet to develop a solid plan to sustain language skills among soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued last week.

The service admitted to these difficulties at a Nov. 3 House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee hearing. "We think the GAO report [is] not untrue in terms of there is work to do, but we believe we have grown substantially," the Army's strategy, plans and policy director, Maj. Gen. Peter Bayer, told lawmakers.

On the irregular warfare spectrum, the Army has to "have increased cultural and language capability, so we initiated a number of programs to do it," Bayer said. Discussing one of the limiting factors for units deployed to theater, Bayer said "when you are gone a year and when you are home a year, to try and create the type of language capacity we are talking about in the general purpose formations is quite challenging."

In examining the practices of both the Army and the Marine Corps, GAO found the Army hasn't "fully captured information within the service-level training and personnel systems on service members who completed training or their corresponding proficiency," due to incomplete data fields leading to inconsistencies, according to a summary of the Oct. 31 report. Additionally, there are "multiple opportunities" for hard-copy forms often used in tracking language proficiency "to be lost or human error in data entry," the report states.

The Army established a task force in January 2011 to improve the system, the report said, and is at "varying stages of completing its work."

Because the Army's tracking system for language and culture training is flawed, the service doesn't have the information it needs to assess the progress of individuals or future operational needs, according to the report.

The report also found the Army has not developed plans to sustain acquired language skills, although the service has made "considerable investments to provide service members with extensive predeployment language training." The Army has invested about $12 million in predeployment Afghan language training since 2009, the report states.

GAO found that much of the follow-on language training was voluntary and that the Army hadn't figured out which service members would get additional training to keep them fresh, nor had it determined how much training they would need.