Subscribe

WASHINGTON — Starting in June, military linguists could see an extra $700 in their monthly pay as part of the Defense Department’s ongoing efforts to increase its institutional language skills.

The extra money was authorized by Congress last year as part of the defense budget process. The change increased the maximum active-duty foreign language proficiency pay from $300 to $1,000 a month, and upped guardsmen’s and reservists’ monthly maximum from $15 to $500.

Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said about 20,000 troops currently receive the language pay. Each will see an increase, although the services will develop their own criteria to decide who will receive the full $1,000.

She said the pay increase is not in reaction to a shortfall in personnel with language skills “but reflects the changing global nature of national security and the need to increase language capability in our force.”

To qualify for the language pay, troops must take the Defense Language Proficiency Test and show proficiency in a strategically important language. Servicemembers must also be certified annually to continue receiving the pay.

Recently officials have highlighted languages outside most Americans’ knowledge — Arabic and other Middle Eastern dialects, Chinese and other Asian languages — as specialties of particular interest.

Krenke said officials expect to see more troops work to increase their language proficiency or learn a second language, as a result of the higher pay incentive.

Earlier this year department officials announced a five-year, $750 million initiative for programs involving advanced foreign language training, recruitment of native speakers, improved fluency testing and the development of cultural awareness courses for troops headed overseas.

According to Pentagon statistics, about 247,000 servicemembers have some language proficiency. Of the 20,000 who are currently receiving the language pay, 7,249 of those are proficient in Arabic.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up