ties as well. There is a need on staffs — COCOMs
[Combatant Commanders], fleet staffs, Offices of
Defense Cooperation and in our embassies around the
world — to have seasoned experts serving in key advisory positions.
When he was CNO, ADM [Gary] Roughead directed that the FAO community grow to 400 officers. In
the plan that was just approved by our leadership, we
will achieve that full operational capability by 2019.
When I talk to people, I tell them tongue-in-cheek
that I’m a push-button FAO because I was asked to lead
the community soon after I became defense attaché in
Moscow. But we are growing our FAOs and promoting
to flag rank from within the community those who
[came in] as commanders or lieutenant commanders.
We now have another flag FAO, RDML Adrian Jansen,
who was selected last year. He is preparing to serve as
defense attaché in Beijing.
So, to the community at large, there is opportunity
for upward mobility to the flag ranks.
What is the training track for FAOs?
VENLET: It depends on the individual. Some come into
the community with a foreign language ability. If they
don’t, we administer the DLAB [Defense Language
Aptitude Battery] test, which indicates an officer’s aptitude for learning a language. If they score well, they may
be slated to learn a more difficult language. If they don’t
have a language skill, we send them
to the Defense Language Institute.
There are criteria for becoming a
fully qualified FAO. One is to have
a regionally oriented master’s degree. Another is to obtain at least a
2-2 on the Defense Language Proficiency Test, the DLPT; a basic
level of speaking, reading and listening comprehension. The goal is
to achieve a 3-3, an advanced level,
which is why repeated tours in a
region are so very important.
The goal is that by the time
a FAO is a captain, he or she is
a seasoned professional and linguist. Some FAOs know more than
one language. I’m surprised to see
that many know three and four
How do FAOs support the
warfighter in the current
VENLET: FAOs are strategic
enablers. We’re in country. FAOs
enable access where access may
otherwise be difficult. Because
FAOs know their foreign counterparts, they are able to build long-term relationships that open doors
of opportunity and possibility that
may otherwise not be open.
What lessons have been
learned since the establishment of the FAO community?
VENLET: We’ve learned that a
single-track community is best for
the Navy. FAOs become FAOs and
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 12 SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014