stay FAOs for their career. They go back for repeat
tours in their region of expertise, thereby increasing
their knowledge and understanding, and they are more
effective in the billets in which they serve because of
that experience gained over time. FAO contributions
are big. The demand is there and I think the demand is
going to grow in the future.
Do FAO families have a representation role?
VENLET: Absolutely. Our families go with us when we
serve overseas. My wife is Hispanic and speaks
Spanish. When we served in Moscow, no one within
my defense attaché office spoke Spanish. She was able
to use her Spanish-speaking skills to converse with the
spouses and attachés from Spanish-speaking countries
— she engaged with them to build relationships at the
family level. Being a FAO is a family affair, and to share
a piece of America on all levels with our partners
around the world is so important. It is all part of that
“ship” building industry I talk about.
That is just a small example at a more senior level.
There are so many stories I could share of our junior
FAOs serving around the world where longstanding
relationships are built.
A lieutenant commander who works for me now
was serving in Japan during the tragic events sur-
rounding the tsunami. He and his family helped to
pass out food and water [and] simply sit with the fam-
ilies who were devastated. What a great opportunity
that was to be present, to support our Japanese friends
and to let them know that somebody cared.
How is the constrained budget situation
affecting the FAO program?
VENLET: As we face budget challenges, I believe the
demand for FAOs may go up. If we have fewer assets,
we need those door openers. We need officers serving
in these countries to maintain the dialogue, to maintain the relationships, to assure that we are there, that
we are still engaged. To me, a relatively small investment in specialized skills for our people offers large
How is the rebalance to the Pacific affecting
the FAO community?
VENLET: The FAO community is already more heavily manned in the Pacific theater than we are anywhere
else. While we are shifting some focus to the Pacific,
we cannot take our eyes off the other regions of the
world where we have partners, friends and treaty allies.
We are manned sufficiently right now and, as part of
our move to full operational capability by 2019, there
will be an increasing number of FAO billets in the
Pacific theater. ■
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 14 SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014