The Department of the Navy is in the final stages of completing revisions to its Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program, a program mandated by the Defense Department last April.
Rear Adm. (sel.) Phil Cullom, N5SP director of strategy and policy, said the purpose of the community is to work relations between the State Department and the Defense Department at a foreign embassy and to facilitate naval forces that would come into an area so that they could be effective with the host nation.
"This community will help us win 'the long war' in ways we probably thought were not as important in the past," said Cullom. "What we're finding is that you have to understand an area, you have to understand a people, you have to understand a culture if you are going to be able to make a difference in convincing people that terrorist groups are not ones that you want to harbor, or not ones that you want to support.”
Also as an FAO, an officer could be attached to a fleet commander and provide cultural expertise to assist with relations with the fleet commander's area of responsibility.
According to Cullom, the first group of FAOs will begin training in June, starting with 15-18 months of graduate study at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), followed by up to 15 months at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). Both schools are in Monterey, Calif.
The Navy plans to graduate 25 FAOs beginning in the summer of 2007 and increase the number to 50 graduates a year through 2009, said Cmdr. Greg Molinari, FAO community manager. The ultimate goal is to have around 400 FAOs by 2015.
“At full maturity, the FAO program will be comprised of either fully qualified FAOs or FAOs Under Instruction (UI),” said Molinari.
Molinari also said that there would be three types of FAOs: Fully qualified FAOs, Enhanced FAOs,(E-FAOs), and New build FAOs.
Fully qualified FAOs will be the officers who meet all criteria in accordance with the Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1315.17, possess at least eight years of fleet experience and require no additional graduate or language education. These officers will be able to be immediately designated as FAOs and made available for operational assignment overseas at the next projected rotation date (PRD).
Enhanced FAOs will be those officers who possess extensive experience overseas and require only language training before they are designated an FAO.
New Build FAOs are those officers with superb operational records and exceptional academic potential who will receive education at DLI and NPS before being made available for overseas assignment.
To qualify for the program, officers must have eight years of commissioned service. This is based on DoD policy which requires that FAOs be “commissioned officers with a broad range of military skills and experiences,” and “be able to represent the Defense Department to foreign governments and military establishments.”
The FAO community will be a single career track community that will replace a legacy dual-track system.
“I anticipate promotion rates to meet or exceed fleet averages,” said Molinari. “As a separate restricted line, FAOs will compete against other FAOs for statutory promotion. Our statutory promotion boards will meet simultaneously with other line and staff corps.”
FAOs will not always be stationed overseas. When not assigned to operational sea tours, FAOs will be assigned as attachès, directors and action officers within the continental United States.
"This job takes an officer who really believes he can make a difference," said Cullom. “It takes an officer who has a desire to culturally live overseas and become acculturated to different areas of the world."
Cullom added that these officers would be vital in theater security operations to help get rid of violent extremists throughout the world.
Source: Navy Completing Revisions to Foreign Area Officer Program