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By the Partnership for Public Service

If you speak certain foreign languages, or even if you are only considering learning one, you should be giving serious consideration to the opportunities available to you in our federal government.
One of the most disturbing findings to come out of the Iraq Study Group’s report was that just 33 of the 1,000 federal employees at our embassy in Iraq speak Arabic, and only six speak it fluently. Unfortunately, our government’s problem of having too few language specialists is not limited to Baghdad. Between 1994 and 1995, the FBI’s backlog of untranslated audio counterterrorism materials nearly doubled to more than 8,000 hours. In addition, 60 percent of the State Department’s critical language speakers are eligible to retire in five years.
To meet our government’s language skill demands, the Defense Department’s National Security Education Program (NSEP) has created The Language Flagship program. This initiative provides selected universities with grants to develop centers - called Flagship Centers - to produce a steady stream of graduates with professional level competencies in the languages identified as most critical to the nation’s security and global competitiveness. Fellowships are available to study Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Farsi, Hindi, Russian and the Central Asian languages. Fellowship recipients must commit to pursuing a career in a federal agency or office focused on national security. Since 9/11, this highly competitive program has seen a significant increase in applications and a dramatic shift toward interest in Arabic and the Middle East. 
Roughly one in three of the program’s undergraduates achieve an advanced or higher level of proficiency, and almost 87 percent reach at least an intermediate level. At the graduate level, 56 percent reach at least an advanced level, while 95 percent test at the intermediate level or higher.
For those who already have language skills, cash bonuses are being offered for your services at multiple agencies. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) offers a Corporate Language Hiring Bonus Program for individuals who have exceptional language skills. New employees who are hired for a language specific occupation must be tested in order to meet eligibility requirements. The size of the language bonus is determined by tested proficiency, language difficulty and level of critical need as determined by the CIA. Individuals may qualify for multiple hiring bonuses if they are proficient in more than one language. The maximum bonus awarded is $35,000 per person.
Students who graduate with a proficiency in a foreign language or professional linguists may qualify for work at the National Security Agency (NSA). New NSA employees receive competitive salaries and may be eligible for signing bonuses of $7,500.
The opportunities for students to serve their country in an international capacity abound, and the need for the best and brightest to answer the call has never been greater. Now is the time for the future Army platoon leader, USAID agricultural advisor in Afghanistan, Foreign Service Officer in Beijing, or CIA analyst to step forward and take advantage of these opportunities.
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