Panetta and Farr celebrate winning effort to protect local bases.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
<>>Rep. Sam Farr [D-Carmel] likes to tell a story about Gen. John P. Abizaid of US Central Command (CENTCOM), who testified before a House military appropriations subcommittee in March. Farr asked Abizaid, whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East, just how important the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School and other military educational institutions are in winning the global war on terror.
“What will win the global war on terrorism will be people that can cross the cultural divide, reach out to those who want our help, and figure out how to make it happen so [those people] can help themselves,” said Abizaid, who learned to speak Arabic at the DLI. “That is how we will win this thing. So we ignore the DLIs and other institutions of military education at our own peril. I very much ask [this] committee to continue to keep those places functioning, because they are national treasures.”
Despite rumors that the ax would fall on one or both of Monterey’s two military academic institutions, both the DLI and NPS were spared late last week when the Pentagon announced its list of proposed closures. Locally, only the Defense Finance and Accounting Service on Fort Ord is slated for closure, costing the local economy 10 military and 51 civilian jobs.
The list isn’t final, and so it’s not a guarantee that the two academic institutions won’t close. But for now, NPS, which offers the country’s first master’s degree in homeland security, and the DLI, the world’s largest language school, avoided the chopping block.
At a celebratory news conference on May 13, Leon Panetta, co-chair of the state’s Base Support and Retention Council, stressed the importance of a smarter, more educated military.
“We can run over Iraq, but if we don’t understand the people we’re talking to, if we don’t understand their culture, we can have tremendous instability—as we do now,” he said, speaking about the advanced training soldiers receive at NPS and the DLI. “The future is going to lie in those kinds of educational opportunities.”
Farr says he was once one of the many Peninsula residents who have no idea about what goes on behind the gates surrounding DLI and NPS.
“Until I was appointed to the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee,” he says, “I had no idea the extent of their services.”
The Naval Postgraduate School, founded in 1947, provides advanced degrees to officers of all services, some specialized civilians, including police and firefighters, and members of foreign militaries. The school’s 40-plus programs range from business, engineering and physics to counter-terrorism and homeland security. Last year, the school founded its Center for Stability and Reconstruction to teach post-war support and planning. The new homeland security degree, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, is also open to civilian “first responders.”
“Right after 9-11, we were getting all kinds of briefings here on the Hill,” Farr recalls. “Everybody wanted to know ‘what is terrorism? Where are the threats coming from?’ The people who had all the information, who had been doing it forever, were at the Naval Postgraduate School. I got better briefings at NPS than I did at the Capital.”
As recently as two weeks ago, however, the Navy school was rumored to be on the closures list. Farr says a letter from former Secretary of State George Shultz to Rumsfeld was “extremely important,” as was testimony from the US Secretary of the Navy Gordon England and Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark.
“Every time they came to the Hill,” Farr says, “I questioned them on [DLI and NPS] and how important they were to the military mission. I got it on the record that they thought both schools were absolutely essential.”
The DLI has called Monterey home since 1946. It offers courses in two dozen languages plus dialects, and most of its instructors are native speakers. All branches of the military study at DLI. Public affairs officer Patricia Ryan says the languages most in demand are Arabic, Korean and Chinese—all of which are classified as “Category 4” languages, the most difficult to learn for native English speakers.
Additionally, the school’s Emerging Languages Task Force, which started shortly after 9-11, teaches Pashto, Kurdish, Uzbek and Dari; professors are also developing Georgian, although it’s not yet offered as a language course.
Farr says the military schools pump more than money and jobs into the local community.
“They add to the cultural diversity of the Peninsula,” he says. “People who visit the Monterey Peninsula talk about its scenic beauty. I think what really makes it such a special place is its people and their diversity of their cultures. We wouldn’t have that richness if it wasn’t for the military’s presence here. So maybe it’s our best kept secret: It’s not just golf.”