October 13, 2018

Danish BDS-Supporting Bank Behind Vast Money-Laundering Scheme

Besa center

By Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldOctober 12, 2018

Danske Bank building at Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo by Thorfinn Stainforth via Wikimedia Commons

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 973, October 12, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, has admitted that its Estonian banking subsidiary has been involved in what is probably the largest dirty money-laundering scandal in Europe’s history. In recent years, this deeply corrupt bank has boycotted several Israeli companies on “ethical grounds.” Israel should use the Danske Bank case as a key example of fraudulent anti-Israeli moralists. Revelations from further investigations into the bank’s misbehavior will likely result in many additional disclosures in years to come.

Somewhat surprisingly, Denmark has provided an example of a huge, morally corrupt, anti-Israel, BDS-promoting body. It was far more probable for such an organization to come to light in Norway or Sweden, where there are many more anti-Israel inciters.

It has recently become known that Denmark’s largest banking group, Danske Bank, has been involved for years in a vast dirty money-laundering scandal. This criminal activity was conducted by its subsidiary in Estonia between 2007 and 2015. The amount of money transferred abroad and being currently investigated is a staggering $234 billion. The bank estimates that a significant proportion of these payments was suspect.

Fifteen thousand accounts were reviewed. Of these, 6,200 had the most risk factors. The customers involved were primarily Russians and other Eastern Europeans non-resident in Estonia.

To carry out this scheme, Danske Bank’s subsidiary needed the help of major foreign banking correspondents. It has not yet been ascertained to what extent those banks were aware of what was going on. Yet, in 2013, JP Morgan terminated its correspondent banking relationship with the Estonian bank over doubts about its activities. It was replaced by Bank of America. Deutsche Bank also continued to make US dollar wire transfers on behalf of the Estonian bank.

In 2014, when Danske Bank had already received warnings about the unethical activities in its Estonian business, it decided to add Bank Hapoalim to a list of companies in which it could not invest due to its corporate accountability rules. The bank claimed that the exclusion was for “legal and ethical reasons.” Danske Bank said Bank Hapoalim was funding settlement activities and was “acting against the rules of international humanitarian law.” Danske Bank had also withdrawn its investments from the Israeli companies Africa Israel Investments Ltd., Elbit Systems, Aryt, and Danya Cebus.

The boycott of Bank Hapoalim was not without consequences for Danske Bank. Several states in the US, including Colorado and New Jersey, ceased doing business with the bank and/or sold their investments in it. In 2016, Danske Bank reversed its decision concerning Bank Hapoalim.

A year ago, the British daily The Guardianrevealed that, based on leaked data, Azerbaijan’s leadership had used the bank to fund a secret $2.9 billion scheme to pay prominent Europeans through a network of British companies. The paper claimed that between 2012 and 2014, more than 16,000 covert payments were transacted through Danske Bank’s branch in Estonia. Part of this money appears to have been passed on to politicians and journalists within a lobbying operation framework.

The scheme was nicknamed “the Azerbaijan Laundromat.” Among those receiving payments were former members of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, as well as a board member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

It has not been proven that all recipients knew the source of the money as it was disguised via intermediaries. Still, what was disclosed at the time was enormously shameful. But in view of what is now public knowledge about the extent of the money-laundering scandal, it is minor.

Danske Bank’s CEO, Thomas F. Borgen, recently tendered his resignation but said he would stay on until a suitable successor was found. He has since been ousted by the Board. A report on the scandal was prepared by a Danish law firm that had previously advised the bank – a choice that was criticized due to that prior relationship.

The report outlines how incompetent and negligent Danske Bank’s management was. It states inter alia that no adequate controls were put in place by the bank of its Estonian branch. Nor did it react to serious indications of wrongdoing over the years. There are also suspicions that some employees in Estonia assisted in the money laundering or colluded with clients.

Although the scandal has reached gigantic proportions, the full extent of its repercussions have not yet been fully exposed. Many more ramifications will take time to investigate. The UK National Crime Agency announced that it has begun an inquiry into the use of UK companies by the Danske Bank group involved in money laundering activities. The organization Corruption Watch has requested that serious consideration be given to withdrawing the bank’s UK license.

Danske Bank’s money-laundering activities are probably the largest in European history. Danish Business Minister Rasmus Jarlov said he expected Danish authorities to fine Danske Bank the equivalent of more than $600 million. Analysts expect that the bank may also be fined billions of dollars by US and European regulators. There are already voices urging the bank’s Board to assess whether management breached its fiduciary responsibilities and can be held liable. If so, they should be sued.

Israel is subjected to a constant barrage of extreme hate propaganda and discrimination by morally corrupt individuals and organizations. If Israel had, as it should have, an anti-propaganda agency, the Danske Bank scandal could be used as a prime example of fraudulent ethics. This case would be all the more useful as revelations from further investigations into the bank’s misbehavior will likely result in many additional disclosures in years to come.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He specializes in IsraeliWestern European relations, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism, and is the author of The War of a Million Cuts.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

సి.బి.ఐ.మాజీ.జే.డీ.లక్ష్మీనారాయణ* గారు (19.09.2018) మచిలీపట్నం లో ముఖాముఖీ కార్యక్రమం లో ఓ కధ చెప్పార

గారు (19.09.2018) మచిలీపట్నం లో ముఖాముఖీ కార్యక్రమం లో ఓ కధ చెప్పారు.

ఒక ఊరిలో ఓ రైతు ఉన్నాడు.
అతనికో ఇల్లు వుంది.
ఆ రైతు తనతో పాటు ఒక కోడిని ఒక మేకను పెంచుకుంటున్నాడు.
ఆ ఇంట్లో ఒక ఎలుక కూడా తిరుగుతుండేది.
ఆ ఊరిలోనే గ్రామస్థుల అవసరాలకు ఒక చెరువు వుంది.
దానిలో ఒక మొసలి నివాసం వుంటుంది.
కొన్నాళ్ళ తరువాత ఆ రైతు కి వివాహమై బార్య కాపురానికి వచ్చింది.
ఆవిడకి ఆ ఇంట్లో ఎలుక తిరగడం నచ్చలేదు.
ఆ విషయమే భర్తకి చెప్పింది.
ఎలుకను చంపడానికి బోను తీసుకురమ్మని చెప్పింది.
మరుసటి రోజే రైతు ఓ ఎలుకల బోను తీసుకొచ్చి ఇంట్లో పెట్టాడు.
జరిగిన తతంగాన్ని చూసిన ఎలుక భయపడింది.
ఎలాగైనా ఈ సమస్య నుండి బయటపడటానికి ఏదో ఒకటి చేయాలి అనుకుంది.
మందుగా కోడి దగ్గరకు వెళ్ళి ఇలా అడిగింది.
*నేను ఇంతవరకూ ఈ రైతుకి ఏ విధమైన నష్టం కలిగించే పని చెయ్యలేదు. ఏదో నా మానాన నేను బతుకుతున్నాను. ఇక మీదట కూడా వారి జోలికి రాను. నన్ను చంపవద్దని చెప్పు.*
అని ప్రాధేయపడి అడిగింది.
దానికి ఆ కోడి చిద్విలాసంగా...
*అది నీ వ్యక్తిగత విషయం. దానితో నాకేమిటి సంబంధం. నీ సమస్య నువ్వే పరిష్కరించుకో...*
అని సమాధానం చెప్పింది.

అప్పుడు ఆ ఎలుక మేకని ఆశ్రయించి అడిగింది.
దానికి ఆ మేక కూడా...
*అది నీ సమస్య...*
*దానిని నువ్వే సరిచేసుకోవాలి* *నాకు సంబంధంలేదు*
అని బదులిచ్చింది.

చేసేదేమీ లేక ఎలుక చివరిగా చెరువు దగ్గరకు వెళ్ళి మొసలిని కూడా అడిగింది ..
*ఎలాగైనా రైతుని ఒప్పించి నన్ను కాపాడు. నేను ఏ పొరపాటు చెయ్యను*
అని అడిగింది.
అప్పుడు ఆ మొసలి కూడా
*నాకు సంబంధం లేదంటూ...*
అలాగే మాట్లాడింది.

ఏదయితే అదే జరుగుతుందిలే అనుకుని ఎలుక తిరిగి ఇంటికి వచ్చేసింది.
ఆ రాత్రి ప్రొద్దుపోయాక పెద్ద శబ్దంతో బోను తలుపు మూసకుంది.
వెంటనే రైతు బార్య ఎలుక చిక్కింది అనుకుంటూ చీకట్లో తడుముకుంటూ బోను దగ్గరకు వెళ్ళింది.
కానీ... దానిలో దూరింది ఎలుక కాదు.
అది ఓ పాము.
ఆవిడ దగ్గరకు రాగానే అది ఆమెను చేతి మీద  కాటేసింది.
ఆవిడ అరుపుకి అందరూ లేచి వచ్చారు.
ఆమెను ఓ మంచం మీద పెట్టి డాక్టర్ ని పిలుచుకొచ్చారు.
ట్రీట్మెంట్ మొదలైంది.
రోజులు గడుస్తున్నాయి.
అందరూ వచ్చి పలకరించి వెళుతున్నారు.
చుట్టాలు రావటం మొదలైంది.
ఇలా కొన్ని రోజులు గడిచాయి.
వైద్యం జరుగుతూనే ఉంది.
వచ్చిన చుట్టాలకి మర్యాదలు చేయటానికి ఓ రోజు ఆ రైతు తను పెంచుకున్న కోడిని కోసి వండి పెట్టాడు.
*ఎలుక మాత్రం అక్కడే వుంది.*
మరికొన్ని రోజులు గడిచాయి.
వైద్యం జరుగుతోంది.
చుట్టాలు ఇంకా ఎక్కువ మంది వచ్చారు.
వారి కోసమని ఆ రైతు మేకని కోసి ఫలావు చేసి పెట్టాడు.
*ఎలుక మాత్రం ఇంకా ఆ ఇంట్లో తిరుగుతూనే వుంది.*
వైద్యం జరుగుతుంది. కానీ ఆమె కోలుకోలేదు.
లాభం లేదని పొరుగూరు నుండి మరో వైద్యుడిని పిలిపించారు.
ఆ వైద్యుడు ఆమెను చూసి...
మరేమీ పర్వాలేదు.
నేను ఈమెను బ్రతికిస్తాను.
కానీ... వైద్యానికి నాకు మొసలి రక్తం కావాలి అన్నాడు.
దానితో అందరూ వెళ్ళి చెరువులో ఉన్న మొసలిని పట్టుకుని చంపి దాని రక్తం తీసుకొచ్చి వైద్యునికి ఇచ్చారు.
రైతు భార్యకి నయమైంది.

*కోడి చచ్చింది.*
*మేక కూడా చచ్చింది.*
*చివరికి మొసలీ చచ్చింది.*
*కానీ... ఆ ఎలుక మాత్రం అక్కడే వుంది.*

*మన సమాజమూ ఇలాగే ఉంది*

*ఎవరికి వారే నాకేమిటి సంబంధం అనుకుంటే....*

*చివరికి వారు కూడా.....!!!!!!*

Quarterly Axios Future Trends


Axios Trends By Mike Allen ·Oct 13, 2018

Welcome back to our quarterly Axios Future Trends, where our subject-matter experts give you an exclusive lookahead. I'd love to hear what you think: Just reply to this email, or write mike@axios.com.

  1 big thing: Here come the robotaxis

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


By year's end, anyone in metro Phoenix (not just a handful of early participants) will be able to summon an autonomous vehicle from Waymo using an app on their phone. The nation’s first commercial robo-taxi service will be limited to certain areas, but the territory will gradually expand as the cars get even smarter with experience.

Why it matters: Waymo is by far the leader in autonomous vehicle technology, racking up 10 million miles of real-world driving and 5 billion simulated miles. But it’s still up to the public to decide if they want self-driving cars. Waymo’s robo-taxi service will be an early test of that question.

What we’re watching: It’s unlikely we’ll see any movement on federal legislation around AVs this year, unless Congress decides to tackle it during a lame duck session after the November election, which means companies will continue to focus their development efforts in states with the most favorable laws. — Joann Muller

Sign up for Joann's weekly newsletter on autonomous vehicles here.

     Tech: Big Tech prepares for privacy rules

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


After years of urging regulatorsto leave them be, Silicon Valley companies are gearing up for new rules, especially around privacy. The industry's focus has shifted from fending off regulation to helping craft something palatable.

What tech companies would like in return for federal legislation is to see states prohibited from passing their own rules. California has already passed a strict privacy law, set to take effect in 2020, adding additional incentive for tech companies to come to the table on federal legislation.

The rub: Some observers fear that rules protecting user privacy could inadvertently entrench large players. Big companies can build in cost of compliance, while upstarts can find adhering to complex rules prohibitive.

The model: Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one possibility. While many tech companies didn't initially love the rules, they're a known quantity that the industry already has to deal with.That said: A recent Senate hearing indicated that the tech giants will take any chance they get to influence lawmakers to create rules that are more industry-friendly — that is, weaker — than Europe's or California's. — Ina Fried

Sign up for Ina's daily tech newsletter Login here.

     Politics: The Trump election

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


Like everything in our lives these days, the midterms on Nov. 6 (just 24 shopping days away) are all about President Trump:

Trump wants the elections to be about Trump, and makes that plain in the mad rush of rallies heading into voting day. The gender gap is off the charts wide — due to Trump.

The House is virtually certain to flip to Democrats for two reasons: insanely high turnout and fundraising among liberals — all in reaction to Trump — and suburban woman snubbing the GOP, also because of Trump. 

Nancy Pelosi is highly likely to then become Speaker, again thanks to Trump. A record number of women will have run, voted and won. It’s hard to see women denying a woman the speakership, especially in the Trump era.Kevin McCarthy is highly likely to lead the House GOP post-election, in part because of his tight relationship with Trump — plus his embrace of the Trump border wall and immigration strategy. 

The Senate, on the other hand, looks better and better for Republicans to hold. Why? Trump!

The rural voters who will decide Senate races from North Dakota to Tennessee love Trump — and his us-against-them rallying cry during and after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

Be smart: Regardless of the outcome of the House and Senate, it will be all about Trump’s wall in the lame duck, Trump’s impeachment after that, and Trump’s reelection campaign in 2020. —Mike Allen

Subscribe free to "Axios AM: Mike's Top 10," our 7-day-a-week day-starter, and Jonathan Swan's weekly Washington lookahead "Sneak Peek" here.



What exactly gives cryptocurrencies value?  

With more than 1,000 cryptocurrencies in circulation, what really makes money, money? Find out how one region in the U.S. answers that question–and the implications for digital dollars worldwide.

Read more.

  Health: Trump test for the ACA

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


The politics and substantive rules of the road for the Affordable Care Act are more stable now than they have been in years. But chaos is never far away.

What to watch: The upcoming ACA enrollment season, which starts Nov. 1, will be the first one with the Trump administration’s agenda fully in place, and it will test just how effective that agenda is.

For the first time, the ACA’s individual mandate won’t be in effect, and consumers will actually be able to the buy cheaper, skimpier insurance plans the Trump administration has been positioning as an alternative to ACA coverage.Insurers don’t like some of these changes on the merits. But they’ve known all this was coming, and generally feel they have a pretty good handle on how badly these policies will affect the market for ACA coverage. The next enrollment window will tell them whether they guessed correctly.

This period of relative certainty could come undone in court.

The very early tea leavessuggest that the latest legal challenge to the ACA might have more legs than legal experts initially thought.The red states leading that lawsuit want the courts to strike down the entire law; the Trump administration wants them to only strike down protections for pre-existing conditions. Either outcome would plunge health care back into policy and political chaos.

The bottom line: We’re either adjusting to the new normal, or in the calm before the storm. A federal judge in Texas and a six-week enrollment period will tell us which. — Sam Baker

Sign up for Sam's daily Vitals newsletter here.

     Future: The populist tide keeps rising

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


The more advanced economieshad thought the forces of globalization — ever-opening trade and the free movement of people — were inexorable. 

Instead, they have been overwhelmed by the forces of tribal identity — a feeling across the West of a loss of stature, self-dignity, and power over your own destiny. In country after country,look for the populist wave to go on for decades. And when they are played out, look for the West to be a very different world, although it's difficult to discern even the outlines of what may be coming. 

Bottom line: People are angry at their establishment leaders, their institutions, and immigrants. Brazil, Latvia and Serbia are the latest to vote for nationalist leaders promising to kick out the scoundrels. — Steve LeVine

Sign up for Steve's daily AxiosFuture newsletter here.

     World: South America in a storm

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


Brazil appears poised to elect Jair Bolsonaro — a longtime backbencher who has spoken fondly of military rule and was best known until recently for his penchant for racist, sexist and homophobic comments — as its next president.

Bolsonaro’s campaign has been fueled by anger over crime, corruption and a sputtering economy. But the fury isn’t contained to Brazil:

Venezuela’s economic, political and humanitarian crisis has generated an exodus of some 4 million people. The migrant crisis rivals Syria’s, and it’s placing a huge burden on the country’s neighbors. So dire is the situation inside Venezuela, meanwhile, that foreign military intervention is being discussed in earnest.Colombia has taken in at least 2 million Venezuelans, exacerbating a tense political situation there. A peace deal polarized the electorate, Coca production is at an all-time high and Iván Duque, the country’s new president, has his work cut out for him.Argentina is attempting to claw its way out of a currency crisis. A recession looms and that has undercut the popularity of President Mauricio Macri, a centrist. His predecessor and political rival, though, might be headed to prison.

What to watch: As we've seen from the massive corruption scandals that have reached across borders and affected much of the continent over the past few years, South America’s politics are deeply intertwined. Things tend to unfold in waves. Right now, they’re heading in the wrong direction. — David Lawler

Sign up for David's bi-weekly World newsletter by clicking here.

     Business: Next phase of the China trade war

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


U.S. tariffs on around $200 billion in Chinese imports are set to jump to 25% on Jan. 1, up from the 10% implemented last month.

That works out to around $30 billion in new taxes to be paid by U.S. importers, many of whom will pass at least some of the costs on to U.S. consumers.

Be smart: Economics differ on the degree to which increased tariffs will affect things like GDP, corporate earnings, and inflation, but few of the predictions are broadly cataclysmic.

The bigger wildcard is how China will respond. Trump, buoyed by his self-described trade successes with Canada and Mexico, is unlikely to back down before January.

If Republicans continue to run Congress, Trump will maintain free reign on trade, even if it violates traditional GOP orthodoxy.If Democrats gain power, trade may be one area where they largely agree with the White House.

China cannot simply apply 25% tariffs to an equal amount of U.S. imports, because they don't total $200 billion. Other possible options (and, no, this is not an exhaustive list):

Devalue the yuan, thus turning them into the currency manipulator Trump already says they are.Severely restrict Chinese tourism to the U.S., which generated $33 billion in 2016.Sell down its trillion dollar-plus stockpile of U.S. Treasury bills, or stop buying new ones. Either one could possibly increase U.S. government borrowing costs.Make it much more difficultfor U.S. businesses to operate in China, well beyond current concerns about IP theft and requirements that U.S. tech companies form joint ventures with local partners.

The bottom line: Trump has made America’s policy known. China’s response will determine if this becomes a full-blown trade war. — Dan Primack

Sign up for Dan's daily deals newsletter Axios Pro Rata here and Felix Salmon's weekly business lookahead Axios Edge here.

     Science: Brain science, Earth science and astronauts

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


Cutting-edge developments in neuroscience could come out of a major conference taking place in early November. Scientists have been making gains in everything from understanding addiction to designing treatments to help re-establish brain-body connections, allowing people to use limbs that they had lost to amputations or spinal cord injuries.

The world's top Earth scientists will meet in Washington in December to present the latest on everything from the future of our climate to a future mission to Mars. Lots of news will come out of this conference, from research into what may have caused the monstrous fire tornado that struck Redding, California in July, to what NASA's Cassini spacecraft learned about Saturn's rings during its recent mission.

SpaceX and Boeing will also be moving closer to the first uncrewed tests of their spacecraft that will eventually take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

This work has taken on a new urgency after the aborted Russian rocket launch to the Space Station on Oct. 11.That incident has left the U.S. with no human spaceflight capability for at least a few months, pending an investigation.  — Andrew Freedman

Sign up for Andrew's weekly Science newsletter here.

     Cybersecurity: A new U.S. cyber strategy

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios


The new cybersecurity strategyunveiled last month by the Department of Defense emphasizes agility, strength, and the ability to disrupt cyberattacks by hacking the attackers. In the coming months, we'll start to learn whether that makes the U.S. more secure, the world more chaotic, or both.

The new strategy undoes Obama-era rules that required intra-agency discussions before cyber interventions and lowers the threshold for what warrants a response from U.S. hackers.

Proponents of the strategy believe that the United States needs to raise the cost for foreign hackers to strike American targets, and the current toolkit lacks a military option less extreme than war. In part, the idea is to show U.S. cyber power in an attempt to bolster security.

The risks:

Responding to cyberattacks can escalate conflicts. Nations may feel like they have to respond to a challenge or may interpret what the U.S. considers a defensive move as part of a larger attack.For the U.S. to respond to attacks nimbly, it will have to develop footholds in enemy networks in advance, and that risks exposure. — Joe Uchill

Sign up for Joe's bi-weekly cybersecurity newsletter AxiosCodebook here.

October 08, 2018

Announcing the new Issues.org site



Announcing the new Issues site

Your source for the best writing on policy related to science, technology, and medicine just got a lot better. 

We've totally redesigned the website for Issues in Science and Technology, improving just about everything at Issues.org to make it more attractive, more current, more useful, and more fun to explore. Here are a few new features you’ll want to check out:

Art galleries. The print edition of Issues features artwork related to the topics addressed in the articles or that uses technology in innovative ways in the creative process. Thanks to the generous permission of the artists, we are now able to include much of their work online. We begin by including from the Fall 2018 edition the work of painter William Utermohlen, which reflects the changes occurring as he developed Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve added a few more galleries from earlier editions and will be adding more galleries—like the work of Julie Anand and Damon Sauer, featured in the header of this email—in the future.

Explore by topic/issue. We’ve made it simple to explore entire past issues, which often contain special sections that include a mix of articles that approach a single topic from a variety of perspectives. You can also find a number of articles on any given topic to make it easy to see how our knowledge and understanding of a specific area has evolved over time.

News updates. Almost every day you can find stories in the popular press that touch on the science, technology, and health policy topics that are examined in Issues. Our news updates will alert you to current debates about these topics and will provide links to Issues articles in which experts explain the underlying science and policy in more detail.

Frequent new material. The only way to see all the articles as soon as they are published is to become a subscriber to the print edition, but over time we do make all the articles available for free. We will be upping the pace at which we post new features, perspectives, and book reviews. We hope that you visit us regularly to see this new material and to read the news updates.

This is just a taste of what you will find. Please wander through the site on your own and check out the latest issue. And keep coming back. Our new platform will enable us to post more art, more videos, and more additional material, so the site will continue to improve.

Our goal is to make the site more accessible, more enjoyable, and more helpful to you. Please let us know if you like the changes and if you have suggestions for further improvements.

—Kevin Finneran, Editor-in-Chief

October 07, 2018

Leveraging Regional Expertise to Counter Influence Operations

The Strategy Bridge

Geoff McKeel 

 October 3, 2018

Speaking to an audience of about 2,500 active duty service members at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in 2011, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated language knowledge is “the key to understanding the world.” Secretary Panetta further explained that if the United States wanted to understand “what motivates [foreign] countries, what motivates their people and…their culture, beliefs, faiths, ideologies, hatreds, and loves,” he explained, “a strong language ability” is the key.[1]

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Commandant Col. Danial Pick escorts Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Rep. Sam Farr inside the Multi-Language School building at the Presidio of Monterey in 2011. (Steven L. Shepard/U.S. Army)

All branches of the armed forces have recognized the need for language and culture awareness training as important for military operations, and each service now has a language and cultural awareness training center designed to teach these critical skills. While these language and cultural initiatives are a step in the right direction, they are simply not aggressive enough to counter the rise of influence operations, or actions designed to produce a desired outcome on a target audience, which are becoming more prevalent as information and technology continue to reach more of the world’s people.[2] Without a substantial population of foreign language and culture experts engaged across Department of Defense activities relatively soon, the United States will be at a disadvantage in fighting back against foreign actors who seek to influence American target audiences in support of outcomes detrimental to national security.

In spite of this, the plan for building language and culture awareness capacity in the armed forces has yet to find the energy, focus, resourcing, and time commitment required to counter these threats. While training all members of the armed forces to a working proficiency level in targeted foreign languages and cultural awareness is an apt but very long-term hope for the Department of Defense, there must be more reachable solutions to deny influence operations by adversaries right now. One such solution leverages an existing capability: foreign area officers. Creating career foreign area officers across all branches would provide a needed response to national security threats that rely on information and not weapons.


This global-level influence fight is ongoing in the information environment. Defined, the information environment is the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information.[3] Stated another way, it is the rapidly growing setting where the battle for influence exists among almost infinite information channels like traditional media, social media, propaganda, and indigenous customs. Containing, countering, or defeating threats in the information environment starts with understanding the culture, beliefs, faiths, ideologies, hatreds, and loves of an adversary. Again, as Secretary Panetta pointed out, this understanding requires strong language abilities. There are doctrines, directives, and policies that spell out how critical language capabilities are for a myriad of military functions.



Department of Defense Directive 5160.41E, Defense Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Program, highlights the significance of impactful, lasting language capacity in the armed forces. It requires key stakeholders to cultivate language, regional expertise, and culture capability across Department of Defense activities. The directive recognizes the long-term need for language capabilities, stating, “Foreign language skills, regional expertise, and cultural capabilities are enduring critical competencies.”[4]

A U.S. soldier on a training mission in Africa. (U.S. Army)

As a practical example of how important language is to military operations, Field Manual 3-24, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, devotes an entire chapter to language ability and cultural awareness. The manual explains that success in gaining population support in counterinsurgency operations is largely dependent upon a military force understanding “the local people and their culture and [incorporating] the perspectives and concerns of the population in…plans and operations.”[5] Furthermore, the manual directs all counterinsurgents to “make every effort to experience and understand the local culture, including…learning local languages and customs.”[6]

In 2006, in a larger, more strategic example of language ability as a critical military competency, the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel charged with assessing a dire chapter of Operation Iraqi Freedom, offered 79 different policy recommendations. Recommendation 73 proposed the “Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence should accord the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training [for] personnel about to be assigned to Iraq.”[7]

Despite those very visible calls to grow language and cultural awareness capabilities in the ranks of the armed forces, fostering these skills among more than one million active duty military personnel would be a very long-range aspiration. Instead, growing and maintaining foreign area officer capacity can provide proficiency in these critical skills that the Department of Defense needs for these threats that are perpetually trying to influence domestic audiences.


Lieutenant Colonel David Brigham explains the role of the Army Foreign Area Officer during the 4th Annual FAO Conference at the Naval Postgraduate School. (Javier Chagoya/U.S. Navy)

A foreign area officer is a highly trained, senior military member who, upon completion of his or her education and training, “possess a unique combination of strategic focus, regional expertise (including cultural awareness and foreign language proficiency), and professional military skills and experience that are critical competencies essential to the [Department of Defense] mission.”[8] Simply put, foreign area officers are highly skilled professionals who receive graduate-level education and practical training to make them experts in a foreign language, a foreign culture, and a region of the world. These professionals receive years of invaluable training for today’s environment of influence operations in the information environment. Yet, in all but the United States Army, foreign area officers receive this education and training as a temporary assignment, only to return to another occupational field upon completion of their temporary role as a foreign area officer.[9]


The United States can expect continued, assertive moves by adversaries within the information environment. This type of conflict is disruptive to current ideas of warfare, but it is the new normal and demands the United States orient its national security posture accordingly. While initiatives in cyber and information security are necessary, understanding an adversary’s motivations starts with the strong language and cultural awareness capabilities that Secretary Panetta discussed in Monterey.

In January 2005, the Office of the Secretary of Defense published the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap. This roadmap outlined four goals that serve as guideposts for the Department of Defense to “significantly [improve] organic capability in emerging languages and dialects...[and obtain] a greater competence and regional area skills in those languages and dialects.”[10] The four goals are the creation of foundational language and regional area expertise, the creation of the capacity to meet critical language requirements in worldwide operations, the establishment of a cadre of language professionals with advanced-level proficiency, and the establishment of a process to track the accession and promotion rates of military personnel with language skills.[11]

In order to meet these goals without further delay and build the capacity necessary to counter future threats, the Department of Defense must redesign foreign area officer utilization such that military professionals in every service who want to make a career in that occupational field can do so. The United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps invest significant training and education into their foreign area officers only for it to be a small part of an individual’s career. This unnecessarily limits the return on investment for a significant amount of strategically critical training and education. Allowing a career path for foreign area officers across all services would support the four goals in the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap. It would also provide each service with a collective group of foreign language and culture specialists the services could utilize to augment operations around the world. Organizations often deploy with adjunct staffs of specialists who assist in accomplishing missions and objectives. Military organizations operating across all domains could utilize foreign area officers in the same manner—as effective, additional tools to accelerate existing capabilities and help adapt organizations to unfamiliar environments.

Coalition soldiers meet with local Afghan elders in Helmand Province. (AFP)


In the nearly twenty years since the beginnings of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the military has struggled to construct an effective language and cultural awareness capacity. In a 2008 report by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the panel praised the energized language and cultural training initiatives by the Department of Defense but wondered about the direction and objectives for these programs.[12] A 2011 study by the General Accounting Office recommended that the Army and the Marine Corps improve planning and coordination in the development of their language and culture awareness training.[13]


While building foreign language and cultural awareness capacity among all services is clearly important and necessary, the potential conflicts of the future are evolving rapidly. Among the tools to oppose adversaries in this arena, language ability is among the most important as it provides the insight into motivations, thoughts, and beliefs. Understanding these fundamental elements of an opponent in an environment where target audience influence wins fights, comprehending basic adversarial motives are elementary for victory in the information environment. Without an operationally engaged population of language and culture expertise, the United States will be hard pressed to dissect adversarial initiatives to sway audiences in the information environment in support of troublesome outcomes.

Redesigning foreign area officer utilization to provide a foreign language and culture expertise over a career of service is a strategic catalyst to prevent adversaries from operating freely in the information environment. Just as weaponry and tactics have evolved to meet operational needs, so too must language and culture competencies evolve to stay on the offense on a battlefield that is always changing and expanding. Language and culture training are warfighting capabilities that must be on par with activities like advanced weapons training. There will be more aggressive and persistent moves by foreign influences in the information environment. The needed supply of language and culture expertise is not presently ready for tomorrow’s battles. It is time to recognize this shortfall, reorient priorities and resources, and employ a fortified cadre of foreign area officers to create superior language and culture capability that outclasses any potential adversary.

Geoff McKeel is a recently retired Marine Corps officer. He served his final assignment as the Executive Office of the Marine Corps Information Operations Center. Views contained in this post do not represent the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, or the Department of Defense.

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Header Image: From “Third World Hands and the Denial of History” (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)


[1] Thompson, Mark, “The Pentagon’s Foreign-Language Frustrations.” Nation.time.com. http://nation.time.com/2011/08/24/the-pentagons-foreign-language-frustrations/ (accessed August 1, 2018).

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-13: Information Operations, I-3.

[3] Ibid, I-1.

[4] Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense Directive 5160.41E: Defense Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Program (DLRECP), 2, Washington D.C.: USD (P&R), 2015.

[5] Headquarters, Department of the Army, FM 3-24: Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, 3-1, Washington D.C.: HQDA, 2014.

[6] Ibid., 3-4.

[7] Baker, James A. and Lee H. Hamilton, The Iraq Study Group Report, 61.

[8] Department of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction 1315.20: Management of Department of Defense (DoD) Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs, 3, Washington D.C.: USD (P&R), 2007.

[9] The Foreign Area Officer Association, “What is a FAO.” http://www.faoa.org/FAO-What-is-a-FAO. (accessed August 1, 2018).

[10] Department of Defense, Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, 1, Washington, D.C.: OSD, 2005.

[11] Ibid., 3-14.

[12] House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, Building Language Skills and Cultural Competencies in the Military: DOD’s Challenge in Today’s Educational Environment, 9, Washington, D.C.: HASC Oversight and Investigations, 2008.

[13] United States Government Accountability Office, Military Training: Actions Needed to Improve Planning and Coordination of Army and Marine Corps Language and Culture Training, 23, GAO-11-456, Washington D.C.: GAO, 2011.