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IWP alumnus creates Foreign Area Officer Exhibit at the Pentagon

Jeff Hoffmann, an IWP alumnus and Foreign Area Officer Association (FAOA) Board Member, participated in the ground-breaking for the FAO Heritage Pentagon Exhibit this past December.  The construction of a video wall in September 2017 finalized all planning in his capacity as Chair of the $120K project. 

For the ground-breaking, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness led the celebration along with lead Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) sponsors, the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), and the OSD Historical Exhibits and Executive Services Division.  The ceremony was also attended by several leaders, members, and supporters across the FAO Community.  Full details are available on FAOA website at:


To gain more context and background on the Exhibit, we interviewed Jeff on his work with this project over the past three years.

(Question) What is a FAO?

(Answer) Mr. Jeff Hoffmann:  The first words that come to mind, “The Institute’s Raison D’ Etre.”  I hope every student (current, future) and faculty member has read this statement. They are powerful words and reflect the brilliant heart, soul and drive of IWPs founder and leader, Dr. John Lenczowski.  The Raison D’ Etre provides an exact definition of a Foreign Area Officer, or in the military community, known as the Solider-Statesmen.

One example in the Raison D’ Etre: public diplomacy and its many components are defined as international broadcasting, information programs, exchanges, visitors programs, cultural diplomacy, certain forms of foreign assistance, and political action.  During the FAO Exhibit ground-breaking, according to comments from Diana Banks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training — the Defense Department’s senior language authority, “almost 2,600 FAOs are on active duty in more than 140 countries, and their history extends to before World War II. No two FAOs fulfill the same duty, and each serves a unique role.” 

What is a FAO?  The manager, character, and Statecraft implementers for all of what the IWP Raison D’ Etre describes.

The formal definition of a FAO is described in Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1315.17, “Military Department Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs,” April 28, 2005 with excerpts that state:

  • To achieve national security objectives and success in current and future operations, including the War on Terrorism, the U.S. Armed Forces shall be prepared to conduct military operations in a variety of conditions around the world. The Combatant Commands shall have the requisite war fighting capabilities to achieve success on the non-linear battlefields of the future. These critical war fighting capabilities include foreign language proficiency and detailed knowledge of the regions of the world gained through in-depth study and personal experience. Additionally, these capabilities facilitate close and continuous military-diplomatic interaction with foreign governments and, in particular, with their defense and military establishments, which is essential to developing and maintaining constructive mutually supportive, bilateral and multilateral military activities and relationships across the range of operations.
  • The staffs of the Combatant Commands, the Defense Agencies, and the DoD military diplomatic offices at the U.S. Embassies and diplomatic posts shall include the FAOs to provide expertise in planning and executing operations, to provide liaison with foreign militaries operating in coalitions with U.S. forces, to conduct political-military activities, and to execute military-diplomatic missions.
  • To provide this capability for the Department of Defense, the Military Departments shall deliberately develop a corps of FAOs, who shall be commissioned officers with a broad range of military skills and experiences; have knowledge of political-military affairs; have familiarity with the political, cultural, sociological, economic, and geographic factors of the countries and regions in which they are stationed; and have professional proficiency in one or more of the dominant languages in their regions of expertise.
  • Officers with potential for service on political-military staffs and for effective military diplomacy shall be competitively selected within the Military Departments and be able to represent the U.S. Department of Defense to foreign governments and military establishments. They shall be educated, trained, and have their careers managed to ensure they are retained for such assignments. Procedures to ensure competitive career advancement for such officers shall be incorporated in personnel management programs, to include opportunities for service at General/Flag Officer ranks.

(Question)  Please tell us a little about the FAO Heritage Pentagon Exhibit.

(Answer)  Mr. Hoffmann:  I was honored to be selected as Chair of this project.  In the beginning, I thought most of the historical narrative was going to be focused on a U.S. Army program, which are the core roots of the actual term, “FAO.” 

However, after further exploring the FAOA’s long-time Charter requirement to document the history of the FAO, our team decided to extend the reach of the historical founding, beginning with U.S. Army Captain Merriweather Lewis who was co-Commander with Captain William Clark, who were asked by former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson to explore the lands west of the Mississippi River.  Their mission was to conduct diplomacy with and gather information about various nations of American Indians, which included contact with at least 55 different native cultural groups, including assistance from guide and interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife, Sacajawea. 

In comparison, I’m reminded of Afghanistan and the different provinces/native tongues across the tribal influence regions including Taliban.  The FAO today wouldn’t be intimidated by a Taliban or Wahabi environment, and instead would want to engage in a cup of tea to learn about opium as a cash crop along with their culture and way of life — including any issues/socioeconomic conditions — just like the two U.S. Army Captains did with the Indians along the Missouri River in the 1800s. 


Back to the foundation of the Exhibit – what does the exhibit display? 

Starting with Lewis and Clark paved the way for an amazing historical narrative that offered documented and archived accomplishments across the military services, not to mention several appreciative (non-monetary based) sponsors and contributors.  These included the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, the George C. Marshall Center for European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and the George C. Marshall Foundation at the Virginia Military Institute.  Additionally, several retired and active duty FAO’s contributed to the narrative including one who donated their copy of the Dayton Agreement, used by a joint U.S.-Russian team with Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian units that led to separate forces during implementation of NATO’s first major crisis response in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton Peace Agreement marked the end of the 1992-1995 war in the region.   


Above: Example of an artifact on display:  Mongolian Talisman (“Tsengren Suum”) with prayer scarf (“hadag”) that was given to FAO.  This was used in a ceremony hosted in Ulaanbataar to place a curse on Saddam Hussein during the 2003 American-led Invasion of Iraq.

What does the Exhibit Display? 

America.  The history of her heritage (not to mention that heritage wasn’t unilateral). The French loved America and appreciated Thomas Jefferson and his hospitality, which integrated French culture, as witnessed in present-day Monticello, now a designated United Nations World Heritage Site.  Jefferson himself was a FAO without thinking of those words at that time…However, his order and assigned mission to Lewis and Clark led to the foundations, which their duties and accomplishments were like what is defined as a Foreign Area Officer is today in DoDD 1315.17. 

Following the 1800’s, the narrative of the FAO can be linked throughout many of the historical events that helped shaped and/or worked alongside America’s national security and foreign policy.  While I won’t disclose the entire Exhibit for those who are able to travel to the 2nd Floor (7-8 Corridor) of the Pentagon to read the full history, this section of the Exhibit is divided into three timeframes:

  • 1920-1940 (World War). Includes historical foundation/roots of each of the U.S. Military Service FAO lineages along with a summary of milestones that contributed to the formation of functional areas that make up the three pillars of the FAO: Security Assistance, Political-Military Affairs, and Intelligence. The leadership honored in the FAO Pioneers section began their origins during this timeframe. These two individuals are U.S. Army Lieutenant General, confidant to Dr. Henry Kissinger, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Vernon Walters and former General James A. Van Fleet, known as the “Father of South Korea’s Army” for establishing foundational security assistance practices.


Above: Letter archived in FAO Pioneers section that was written from Dr. Henry Kissinger as National Security Advisor to Maj General Vernon A. Walters while he was serving in the Defense Attaché Office in Paris, France. 


Above: FAO Pioneers section at the exhibit.

  • 1950-1980 (The Cold War and Insurgencies). This section provides an overview of the actual terminology FAO, which originated from the U.S. Army Foreign Area Training Specialist (FAST) program and provides honorary credit to FAO Founder, recently deceased U.S. Army Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughn Wilson (AKA General Sam). General Sam was one of the first Russia FAST graduates who spent a lifetime as a soldier-statesman at the highest levels of U.S. Government, including advisement to at least five U.S. Presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and George H.W. Bush). As a veteran Merrill’s Marauder and Fort Benning Small Units trainer for Office of Strategic Services (OSS), his experience is the true coin of counterinsurgency training, tactics, and procedures (TTP). Upon retirement, General Sam continued to consult, including assistance with the development of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 legislation known as the Nunn-Cohen Amendment that led to the establishment of the present-day U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
  • 1990-21st Century (Refining Global Partnerships). This portion paid tribute to the FAO Association (FAOA) Founder, Dr. Joseph Tulbane (U.S. Army, Eurasia FAO) including the incorporation of the Association in the Commonwealth of Virginia in January 1996. The remainder of the section defines policy and directive origins for the FAO Program along transition of the Defense Language Institute and ends with acknowledgement of the first Navy FAO Flag Officer assignment in 2010. This section includes a quote from retired U.S. Army General John P. Abizaid (former Commander of the USCENTCOM) that states, “The 21st Century really requires that we figure out how to get economic, diplomatic, political and military elements of power synchronized and coordinated against specific problems wherever they exist.”

Other portions of the FAO Heritage Pentagon Exhibit include a tribute to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) titled, “The Evolution of Foreign Language in the Armed Forces,” an artifacts memorabilia wall, and the first-ever FAO Annual Awards Program and Hall of Fame.

How did you become involved in this effort? 

I have been a Board Member of the FAOA Association since 2009 and was designated Chair for the FAO Heritage Pentagon Exhibit project.  From first entry into the U.S. military services in 1992 through War College and retirement in 2013 to present (in both military and civilian capacities), have been assigned to various offices and programs requiring FAO skill-sets and capabilities like Security Cooperation and Foreign Military Sales.

Please tell us a little about the groundbreaking which took place on December 12. 

The full DoD News article abou the groundbreakding can be accessed at:


Above: From left, Lee Johnson, Navy senior language authority and Director of the Navy Language, Regional Expertise and Culture Office; Diana Banks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training and the Defense Department’s senior language authority; Daniel P.C. Feehan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness; and Michael Nugent, Director of the Defense Language and National Education Office, cut the ribbon to dedicate the foreign area officer heritage wall display at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2016. DoD photo.

What are the future plans of the exhibit? 

The exhibit was designed to be evolutionary over time with the flexibility to change some portions, like the Artifacts display.  There is also additional wall space available for other organizations that have been approached like the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).  Most importantly, the exhibit includes a section to honor an Annual FAO Awards Program.  The Video Wall including FAOs in Action allows continued update and inclusion of new material like videos, photography, and FAO event and activity updates.  This exhibit will also be included on the Pentagon’s public tour circuit and available for special group requests like VIP and students from universities such as IWP and the Naval Postgraduate School Joint FAO Program.



Above: As an extension of the FAO Awards program, pictured above (left to right) is Jeff Hoffmann presenting the FAOA Writing Award, “Lieutenant General Vernon A. Walters for International Affairs” to Major Chris Finch at his National Defense College graduation.  Thesis title: “The World on Thin Ice:  Russia’s Hybrid Warfare Strategy Through Hockey.”  The FAO Heritage Pentagon Exhibit includes the Lieutenant General & Ambassador Vernon A. Walters (Political-Military Affairs) FAO of the Year award.

Why is this Exhibit important to you?

Since the founding of the FAOA in 1996, this Exhibit fulfills an original Association Charter goal to establish a documented Heritage and FAO Hall of Fame display.  This Exhibit is joined by several other Pentagon hallway displays, which you could refer to as the “Smithsonian of the Department of Defense.”  This exhibit allows the rich FAO history, including accomplishments and success to be displayed and shared for those who served as a FAO along with future generations to come.  The Hall of Fame section will also incorporate recognition of Fallen FAOs while on duty.  An example of this documented in the display is the kidnapping and murder of U.S. Marine Corp Lieutenant Colonel William “Rich” Higgins who was serving in the UN Truce Supervision Organization in Lebanon.  Filling the peacekeeping void that existed since 1948, this unfortunate event led to the Secretary of Defense formation of the U.S. Military Observer Group – Washington (USMOG-W).  USMOG-W consists of FAOs from all U.S. military services to command oversight and pre-deployment training to U.S. officers deployed to UN Peacekeeping missions around the world.  Of the initial ten security and observation peacekeeping missions, three are still active today in Jerusalem, Cyprus, and India and Pakistan.  After 1972, over forty missions were established to include high threat/conflict countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.