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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2010

ELP working group steers toward innovation

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

A recently formed working group under the Air Force Language and Culture Executive Steering Committee is providing a big assist to the Defense Language Institute English Language Center at Lackland.

The English Language Program Working Group, which began meeting in June, helped solve a medical clearance issue for DLIELC's international students. The group's recommendation to create a separate medical element assigned to DLIELC to meet Department of Defense medical clearance policy stands up in the next several weeks. The new element will aid in speeding up the student pipeline.

"The medical issue has been going on for years and within about 30 days, we'll have it fixed," said Lt. Col. Paul Valenzuela, a working group member and the Air Force culture and language office chief. "It's just amazing to see how it all comes together."

Col. Howard G. Jones III, DLIELC commandant, said the English Language Program Working Group is an innovation in governance.

"It's the kind of governance innovation that allows us to emphasize the tri-service nature of our business and the strategic importance of the mission," Colonel Jones said. "The group deals with a myriad of issues, cross functional and inter-organizational, that impact the English Language Center mission.

"There's a lot of coordination in these meetings - that's the kind of innovation taking place. It means resolutions on issues are much faster and gaining decisions is more efficient. The execution of the mission itself speeds up."

The group met Sept. 9 at the DLIELC conference center to familiarize and reintroduce its members with the campus and facilities. The first two meetings were held in Washington, D.C., and it now appears Lackland will become part of the monthly meeting rotation.

Marty Neubauer, the working group's chairman, said he would like to see the group meet regularly at Lackland.

"It gives a sense of reality on the ground and the group a sense of ownership. It's something they've seen and something they understand," he said about meeting at Lackland. "Decisions sometimes feel abstract when you're making them in Washington and feel very different when you get out to where the buck stops. I'm really pleased by this initial visit."

Mr. Neubauer is deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., and the technical advisor for ISR Language Training and Education.

The ELPWG brings together the stakeholders in DoD English Language training to address, resolve and expedite issues on policy, programs, monetary, manpower and international engagement. By having all military branches together at the meetings, recommendations are moving quickly through the chain for resolution like the medical clearance issue.

Mr. Neubauer said in addition to the advantage of the regular face-to-face meetings, the group is able to move forward because its members are empowered to make decisions.

"They're the right people," Mr. Neubauer said. "I've been very encouraged (about what has been accomplished). A lot of what we're doing requires constant attention. It's like a garden - you don't weed it once then walk away for the summer."