National Security Education Program: Background and Issues
CRS Report for Congress
National Security Education Program
Background and Issues
Updated January 21, 2005
Jeffrey J. Kuenzi
Analyst in Social Legislation
Domestic Social Policy Division
Wayne C. Riddle
Specialist in Education Finance
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
National Security Education Program:
Background and Issues
The National Security Education Program (NSEP), authorized by the David L.
Boren National Security Education Act of 1991 (NSEA, Title VIII of P.L. 102-183),
provides aid for international education and foreign language studies by American
undergraduate and graduate students, plus grants to institutions of higher education.
The statement of purpose for the NSEA emphasizes the needs of federal government
agencies, as well as the Nation’s postsecondary education institutions, for an
increased supply of individuals knowledgeable about the languages and cultures of
foreign nations, especially those which are of national security concern and have not
traditionally been the focus of American interest and study.
Three types of assistance are authorized and currently provided by the NSEA:
(a) David L. Boren Scholarships for undergraduate students to study in “critical”
foreign countries; (b) grants to institutions of higher education to establish or operate
programs in “critical” foreign language and area studies areas, including a National
Flagship Language Initiative-Pilot Program; and (c) David L. Boren Fellowships to
graduate students for education abroad or in the U.S. in “critical” foreign languages,
disciplines, and area studies. Individuals who receive NSEP fellowships and
scholarships are obligated for a limited period of time to seek employment in a
national security position with a federal agency. Grant recipients who demonstrate
that such positions are not available may fulfill the requirement through work in any
federal agency or in the field of higher education in an area of study for which the
scholarship or fellowship was awarded.
The NSEP is intended to complement, and not duplicate, other federal programs
of aid for foreign language and area studies education, such as those authorized under
Title VI of the Higher Education Act and the Fulbright-Hays Act. Distinctive
elements of the NSEP, compared to most other federal programs of aid to
international education or exchange, include the service requirement for aid
recipients, administration by the Department of Defense (rather than the Departments
of Education or State), and support for international travel by American
undergraduate students. The recent establishment of the NSEP pilot program, the
National Flagship Language Initiative, distinguishes it even further from Title VI
programs. The NSEP is administered by the Department of Defense’s National
Defense University, under the guidance of a Presidentially appointed National
Security Education Board.
Several bills passed in the 107th and 108th Congressional sessions that would
have altered the NSEP’s funding and administration. In addition, the intelligence
reform bill (P.L. 108-458) signed by the President on December 17, 2004, amends
Title X of the National Security Act to create a new Intelligence Community
Scholarship Program (ICSP) that is quite similar to the NSEP (§1042). This report
provides background information on the NSEP and an analysis of related issues
including the ICSP. It will be updated in response to major legislative developments.
In troduction ......................................................1
Background: Program Activities and Administration......................2
Forms of Aid.................................................2
National Flagship Language Initiative..............................4
Targeting of Critical Languages, Regions, and Disciplines..............8
Coordination with Other Federal Programs Supporting Foreign
Language and International Studies............................9
Support for Undergraduate Travel Abroad.........................10
Service Requirement and Linkages to National Security Agencies.......11
Table 1. Funding Ranges for Individual Grants Under the National
Security Education Program.....................................3
Table 2. Annual Appropriations from the National Security Education
Trust Fund, FY1995-2004, and Projected Fund Balance, FY2002-2004...7
National Security Education Program:
Background and Issues
The National Security Education Program (NSEP), authorized by the David L.
Boren National Security Education Act (NSEA),1 provides aid for international
education and foreign language studies by American undergraduate and graduate
students, plus grants to institutions of higher education (IHEs). The statement of
purpose for the NSEA emphasizes the needs of federal government agencies, as well
as the Nation’s postsecondary education institutions, for an increased supply of
individuals knowledgeable about the languages and cultures of foreign nations,
especially those which are of national security concern and have not traditionally
been the focus of American interest and study. Specifically, the NSEA declares the
purposes of this program to be: providing the “necessary resources, accountability,
and flexibility” to meet the national security needs of the United States; increasing
the “quantity, diversity, and quality” of teaching and learning of foreign language and
area studies critical to the Nation’s interest; expanding the pool of applicants for
employment in U.S. government agencies with national security responsibilities;
expanding the foreign language and area studies knowledge base upon which U.S.
citizens and government employees can rely; and permitting the federal government
to “advocate the cause of international education” (50 USC 1901).
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been increased
congressional interest in the NSEP and other federal programs of aid for “critical”thth
foreign language and area studies. Several bills passed in the 107 and 108
Congressional sessions that would have altered the NSEP’s funding and
administration. In addition, the intelligence reform bill (P.L. 108-458) signed by the
President on December 17, 2004, amends Title X of the National Security Act to
create a new Intelligence Community Scholarship Program (ICSP) that is quite
similar to the NSEP (§1042). This report provides background information on the
NSEP and an analysis of related issues including the ICSP. It will be updated in
response to major legislative developments.
1 Title VIII of P.L. 102-183, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1992, as
amended primarily by P.L. 102-496, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993,
P.L. 103-178, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, and P.L. 104-201,
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.
Background: Program Activities
The National Security Education Program (NSEP)2 is intended to complement,
and not duplicate, other federal programs of aid for foreign language and area studies
education, such as those authorized under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, the
Fulbright-Hays Act, and other legislation.3 Distinctive elements of the NSEP,
compared to most other federal programs of aid to international education or
exchange, include its service requirement for aid recipients, administration by the
Department of Defense (DOD), rather than the Departments of Education (ED) or
State, and its support for international travel by American undergraduate students.
The recent establishment of the NSEP pilot program, the National Flagship Language
Initiative, distinguishes it even further from Title VI programs.
Forms of Aid
Three types of assistance are authorized and currently provided by the NSEA:
1. David L. Boren Scholarships for undergraduate (including community
college) students to study abroad in a “critical” foreign country;
2. grants to institutions of higher education to establish or operate programs
in “critical” foreign language and area studies areas, often combined with study
of other disciplines related to national security; and
3. David L. Boren Fellowships to graduate students for education abroad or
in the U.S. in “critical” foreign language, disciplines, and area studies.
The NSEA establishes a goal of awarding one-third of each year’s grants for
each of these three forms of aid, although specific allocations of available funds are
determined by the National Security Education Board (NSEB), which also establishes
specific criteria for awards in each category. (The NSEB is discussed further below,
under “Program Administration.”)
Individual Grants. Only United States citizens are eligible for the
scholarships and fellowships, which are to be awarded on the basis of merit, taking
into consideration the geographic distribution and the “cultural, racial, and ethnic
diversity” of grant recipients. The NSEA provides that the language skills of aid
recipients are to be assessed before and after the period of instruction for which they
receive assistance. A recent amendment to the NSEA (contained in P.L. 107-306)
also allows recipients of NSEP scholarships and fellowships to attend the DOD’s
Defense Language Institute.
2 For additional basic information on the NSEP, see also [http://www.ndu.edu/nsep] and
[ h t t p : / / www.wor l ds t udy.gov] .
3 See CRS Report RL31625, Foreign Language and International Studies: Federal Aid
Under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, by Wayne C. Riddle.
While financial need is not taken into account in the selection of scholarship or
fellowship recipients, it is considered in determining the level of individual grants.
Undergraduate students may receive up to two scholarships, one during their first two
years of study, and a second during their remaining years. Graduate students may
receive grants for up to six semesters, but may receive no more in total than $20,000
for study abroad, $12,000 for domestic study, or $28,000 for a combined domestic-
abroad study program. The current dollar ranges for individual grants are outlined
in Table 1.
The number of students receiving undergraduate scholarships increased from
143 in 2001 to 194 in 2002 and has since remained at 194. Similarly, the number of
graduate fellowship recipients increased from 70 in 2001 to 90 in 2002 and has since
remained at 90. Both scholarship and fellowship recipients have traveled to a wide
variety of Asian, African, East European, and Latin American nations. NESP has
supported study in more than 100 countries. The most frequent destinations have
been Russia, China, Japan, Egypt, and Brazil for undergraduate scholarship
recipients, and those nations plus Vietnam and Thailand for graduate fellowship
recipients. NESP does not fund study in Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and
The individual award recipients under the NSEP have studied numerous
languages. While the most common languages have been Arabic, Chinese
(Mandarin), Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, plus Spanish at an advanced level,
smaller numbers of aid recipients are studying languages such as Zulu, Xhosa,
Tibetan, Mongolian, Latvian, Persian, Uzbek, and several other East European,
African, and Asian languages which are very infrequently taught in United States
Table 1. Funding Ranges for Individual Grants Under the
National Security Education Program
Type of grantMinimum grantMaximum grant
Seme ster $4,000 $10,000
Academic year abroadnone$20,000
Domestic study (year)none$12,000
Combined program ofnone$28,000
domestic and foreign studies
Institutional Grants. Through 2002, most institutional grants had been
focused on supporting the establishment of instructional and exchange programs
involving less commonly taught languages and nations or regions at a wide variety
of IHEs in the United States; increasing the number of disadvantaged and/or minority
students participating in international education and exchange programs; and
integrating foreign language and international studies with professional education in
a variety of fields. Beginning in 2003, NSEP no longer sponsored an annual
competition for programs generally oriented to establish and/or improve programs
in international education. Instead, grants to IHEs will occur under the National
Flagship Language Initiative.
National Flagship Language Initiative
This shift in the strategy and focus for NSEP institutional grants began on a pilot4th
basis with a share of the grant funds in 2002. Adopted and authorized by the 107
Congress as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L.
107-306), the National Flagship Language Initiative provides multi-year grants to
IHEs to develop curricular and instructional models for advanced study of the foreign5
languages considered most critical for national security. The goal of the program
is “demonstrating program design and administrative structures on our nation’s
campuses that are capable of dramatically increasing the number of U.S. students
advancing to professional levels of language competency.”6 Special consideration
is to be given to federal employees in the admission of students to such programs.
New Flagship grant competitions were not conducted for FY2003 or announced for
The National Flagship Language Initiative responds not only to federal
government needs but also perceived weaknesses in the former program of
institutional grants. According to a statement on the NSEP’s website, past
institutional grants have been short-term and often insufficiently coordinated with
individual awards. They have often been focused on improving the general capacity
of American IHEs to provide foreign language and area studies (FLAS) instruction,7
which duplicates the role of other federal programs, especially Title VI of the HEA.
4 An initial series of four National Flagship Language Initiative-Pilot Program grants was
announced in July 2002 to Brigham Young University, University of Washington,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
5 For purposes of the National Flagship Language Initiative-Pilot Program in 2002, these
were identified as Arabic (including vernaculars), Hindi, Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese,
Korean, Persian/Farsi, Russian, and Turkish.
6 National Foreign Language Center, National Flagship Language Initiative — Pilot
Program, Advanced Language Institutional Grants, Application Instructions and
Guidelines, Apr. 1, 2002, p. 3.
7 See [http://www.ndu.edu/nsep/institutional_grants.htm].
The NSEP is administered by the Department of Defense’s National Defense
University, under the guidance of a 12-member National Security Education Board
(NSEB). The NSEB consists of the Secretaries of Defense (who chairs the Board),
Education, Commerce, and State, the Director of Central Intelligence, the
Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities, plus six persons
appointed by the President who have expertise in the areas of international, language,
area, and nonproliferation studies education. The Board’s functions include
developing criteria and qualifications for making awards; providing for wide
dissemination of information about program activities; reviewing program
administration; and making recommendations on countries, disciplines, and areas
where there are knowledge deficiencies which make them “critical” for support under
the program. In making the latter determination, the Board is to take into account
federal government needs as well as the supply of individuals knowledgeable in
various languages and areas of the world. To carry out this responsibility, the Board
conducts an annual survey and analysis of federal agency requirements regarding
foreign language proficiency, as well as national security-related regions/nations and
fields of study.8
As with many of the federal government’s programs supporting international
education and exchange, and as specifically authorized by the NSEA, the NSEP is
largely administered through non-governmental organizations that process
applications and oversee the award competition. The Institute of International
Education (IIE, [http://www.iie.org]) performs this role with respect to undergraduate
scholarships, the Academy for Educational Development (AED,
[http://nsep.aed.org]) does so for the graduate fellowship competition, and the
National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland
([http://www.nflc.org]) has acted as an administrative agent for the NSEP in the
awarding of some institutional grants, particularly those under the new National
Flagship Language Initiative Program.
Individuals who receive NSEP fellowships and scholarships are obligated for9
a limited period of time to seek federal employment in a national security position.
If grant recipients can demonstrate that no national security positions are available,
they may fulfill the requirement through work in any federal government position or
in the field of higher education in an area of study for which the scholarship or
8 See [http://www.ndu.edu/nsep/Federal_Language_Needs_2001.htm]. For a listing of both
the foreign languages and world regions and disciplines which were emphasized in the 2004
award competition, see [http://nsep.aed.org/emphasis.html].
9 This requirement has been interpreted to include employment in a relatively wide variety
of federal agencies, including all agencies in the Departments of Defense and State, the U.S.
Intelligence Community, plus several agencies in the Departments of Commerce, Energy,
Justice, and Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, several Congressional
Committees, the Congressional Research Service, and numerous independent federal
agencies. See [http://www.nsep.aed.org/agencies.html].
fellowship was awarded. If individuals fail to meet the service requirement, they
must repay the amount of their grant plus interest.
According to the NSEA, the service period is to be up to the length of time for
which aid was received for scholarship recipients, and 1-3 times of the length of time
for which aid was received for fellowship recipients. Within these limits, the specific
length of the service requirement is determined by the NSEB. In general, it is
approximately equal to the length of the educational program for which a person
Under the original NSEA, as enacted in 1991, the service obligation was
somewhat more flexible — it could have been met through employment in any
Federal agency or position (i.e., not just positions involved in national security), or
as an educator (at any level of education) in the area of study for which the
scholarship or fellowship was awarded. The current service requirement provision
was adopted under P.L. 104-201, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 1997, and amended by P.L. 107-296, the Homeland Security Act of 2002.10
Since adoption of the current service requirement, approximately 73% of
scholarship and fellowship recipients (combined) have met the service requirement
through federal employment, and 27% through employment in higher education.11
However, the pattern of service is distinctly different for undergraduate scholarship
recipients versus graduate fellowship recipients — 93% of scholarship recipients
have met the requirement through federal employment versus 50% of the fellowship
Funding for this program is provided from a National Security Education Trust
Fund (NSETF) in the U.S. Treasury. Money may be taken from the Fund for grants
and administrative costs, but only to the extent specified in authorization and
appropriations legislation. Money in the Fund may be invested only in interest-
bearing obligations of the United States or guaranteed by the United States.
Reimbursements for failure to meet service requirements are to be paid into the Fund.
An initial amount of $150 million was appropriated to the Fund for FY1992.
Early in the 104th Congress, FY1995 rescissions legislation was passed by the House
which would have eliminated the program completely and returned all of its $150
million trust fund to the Treasury. (The initial amount was still available because the
NSEP did not begin making grants until academic year 1994-1995.) Under the final
version of this legislation (P.L. 104-6), one-half of the funds originally appropriated
for the NSEP trust fund ($75 million) was rescinded.
10 A similar provision was earlier included in FY1996 appropriations legislation for DOD
(P.L. 104-61), although it affected only the use of FY1996 appropriations.
11 According to NSEP staff, individual aid recipients have failed to meet the service
requirement (and have repaid their award) in only a handful of special cases.
Each year since FY1992, the NSETF has grown through interest income, and
each year since FY1995, it has declined through appropriations for grants and
program administration. Particularly in recent years, NSETF expenditures have
exceeded income, so the balance remaining in the Fund has steadily declined. The
Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L. 107-248)
provided for $8 million to be appropriated from the National Security Education
Trust Fund for FY2003, the same as the FY2002 amount as well as the President’s
FY2004 request. Table 2 shows the annual appropriations from the NSETF each
year since FY1995 and the projected Fund balance at the end of FY2002, 2003 and
Table 2. Annual Appropriations from the National Security
Education Trust Fund, FY1995-2004, and
Projected Fund Balance, FY2002-2004
balance, end of
2002 $8,000,000 $28,000,000
2003 $8,000,000 $22,000,000
2004 $8,000,000 $21,000,000
P.L. 107-306 requires the Secretary of Defense to submit to selected12
congressional committees a report on the effectiveness of the NSEP and the
advisability of conversion from a trust fund mechanism to annual appropriations.
The authorization of $10 million per year for a National Flagship Language Initiative
is contingent upon submission of this report with a finding that “the programs carried
out under the David L. Boren National Security Education Act of 1991 are being
carried out in a fiscally and programmatically sound manner.”
12 The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence, and the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services, and Committees on
P.L. 107-306 further authorizes $300,000 for the Secretary of Defense, “acting
through the Director of the National Security Education Program,” to prepare a report
on the feasibility of establishing a “Civilian Linguist Reserve Corps,” to be composed
of U.S. citizens with advanced foreign language skills. Those preparing the report
are encouraged to consider the reserve components of the armed forces as a possible
model for this Corps.
Selected issues that have arisen with respect to the NSEP are discussed in the
remainder of this report.
As noted earlier, the original intention was that the NSEP would be funded via
the earnings of a trust fund. An initial appropriation of $150 million was provided
to the trust fund, with the possibility of additional appropriations being provided to
the fund afterward. The apparent intention of using this funding mechanism was to
help insulate the program from the uncertainties of the annual budget and
appropriations processes, although funds to be used for annual grants and
administration must still be appropriated from the Fund.
However, the reduction of the NSETF by one-half in subsequent rescissions
legislation (P.L. 104-6), combined with a decline in interest rates mean that annual
NSETF earnings have been only $2-3 million in recent years, much lower than the
annual appropriations and program level of approximately $8 million per year. Thus,
as noted in Table 2, the Fund’s balance is steadily declining; if current trends
continue, the Fund will be depleted by FY2006. If NSEP activities are to be
maintained at their current (or higher) levels, the size of the Fund must be increased
significantly. Alternatively, the NSEP’s funding structure might be shifted totally to
an annual appropriations basis, as is the case for the majority of federal grant
programs. P.L. 107-306, discussed above, requires the Secretary of Defense to study
the feasibility of such a shift.
Targeting of Critical Languages, Regions, and Disciplines
An issue which arises with respect to any federal program intended to support
instruction in “critical” foreign languages, regions, and disciplines is whether aid
awards are appropriately targeted on such languages, regions, and disciplines.
According to the NSEA, “critical” foreign languages, regions, and disciplines are
those in which there is a major national security interest, the knowledge and skills of
U.S. students and federal employees are deficient, and they are infrequently taught
in the nation’s colleges and universities and infrequently represented in other
international educational exchange programs.
The NSEB conducts an annual survey of federal agencies to identify foreign
languages, regions, and disciplines which the agencies deem to be critical to their
operations. A wide variety of languages that are both frequently (e.g., Spanish) and
infrequently (e.g., Farsi) taught are identified through this process. However, the
NSEB identifies a subset of these languages, along with associated world
regions/nations, plus disciplines to be the focus of scholarship and fellowship awards
for the succeeding year. In addition, the National Flagship Language Initiative, as
planned by the NSEB and as authorized by P.L. 107-306, will attempt to identify the
most critical languages to be the focus of all institutional grants beginning in 2003.
While any process to identify critical foreign languages, world regions and
disciplines will be imperfect and subject to regular revision, and past institutional
grants may not always have been clearly focused on such critical subjects, it appears
that substantial effort is devoted toward focusing NSEP grants on languages, regions
and disciplines which are infrequently taught in American IHEs, and are of national
security interest, particularly in comparison to most other federal foreign language
and area studies programs.
Coordination with Other Federal Programs Supporting
Foreign Language and International Studies
The NSEP’s emphasis on helping to meet national security needs, and its service
requirement for individual aid recipients, distinguish it from other federal programs
of support for foreign language and area studies. Nevertheless, the NSEP shares with
several other federal programs the goals of increasing understanding of, and the
availability of advanced instruction in, world languages and regions which are
infrequently taught in United States IHEs. Therefore, efficiency in the use of federal
aid funds is likely to be enhanced through coordination of the NSEP and such
programs as ED’s Title VI of the Higher Education Act and the Fulbright-Hays Act
programs administered by the Departments of State and Education. Currently, such
coordination occurs through representation on the National Security Education Board
of designees of the Secretaries of Education and State, among others. However, there
is no statutory provision for analogous representation of NSEP officials on decision-
making bodies for related programs administered by other federal agencies.
One aspect of the NSEP — institutional grants, including those under the
National Flagship Language Initiative — is especially similar to activities supported13
under another federal program, Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Both
the NSEP institutional grants and two programs under HEA Title VI — National
Resource Centers and Language Resource Centers — provide grants to United States
IHEs to increase their capacity to provide instruction in foreign languages and
regions, with special emphasis on those which are infrequently taught in this nation.
The major difference may be the degree of focus on “most critical” foreign languages
and regions, especially in view of the planned restructuring of the NSEP institutional
grants under the National Flagship Language Initiative.
The NSEP has attempted to address this concern about possible program overlap
by requiring IHEs to propose activities which complement, but do not duplicate,
those supported under other federal programs when applying for NSEP institutional
grants. Nevertheless, especially given recent efforts through the annual
13 See CRS Report RL31625, Foreign Language and International Studies: Federal Aid
Under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, by Wayne C. Riddle.
appropriations process to increase the focus of HEA Title VI on the most critical
languages and regions, plus the inefficiencies and administrative costs associated
with conducting multiple federal grant competitions for IHEs, as well as the concerns
expressed about NSEP institutional grants by some members of the academic
community (discussed later in this report), the possibility of consolidating the NSEP
institutional grant program with the HEA Title VI national and language resource
center programs might be considered.
In addition, coordination with other programs may be altered by proposals to
move the administrative responsibility for NSEP from the Secretary of Defense to the
Director of Central Intelligence (H.R. 1588 as passed by the Senate) or to the
Secretary of Education (as the President’s Budget recommends). Placing
responsibility for both the NSEP and the HEA, Title VI programs under the Secretary
of Education would presumably increase the degree of coordination and decrease the
amount of overlap among these programs. On the other hand, it is not clear how
shifting responsibility for the NSEP to the Director of Central Intelligence would
impact program coordination.
Support for Undergraduate Travel Abroad
Some have questioned whether support of foreign travel grants by a limited
number of undergraduate students should be a priority for expenditure of federal
funds under the NSEA. In the 107th Congress the Senate-passed version of H.R.
4628 would have eliminated the NSEP’s undergraduate scholarship program, shifting
available funds to graduate fellowships and institutional grants. Although the
enacted version of this legislation does not eliminate authority for undergraduate
scholarships, debate over this issue may continue.
According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report (on S. 2506,
The Committee views the graduate program as the most effective way of
achieving the stated goal of the program for several reasons. First, the graduate
program reaches students after they have already selected a career path. Also,
NSEP officials have told the Committee that graduate students are enthusiastic
about serving as federal employees, and generally seek employment in national
security positions. The Committee notes that the undergraduate program, while
providing unique learning opportunities, is an inadequate mechanism for
ensuring that students will obtain employment with the federal government, and
thereby fails to meet the stated goal of producing an increased pool of applicants
to serve in the federal government. Because the NSEP is essentially taking a
‘risk’ on students by providing them with a substantial amount of financial
assistance, the Committee believes that it is in the best interest of the program to
focus on those students most likely to seek and attain employment in the field of
national security. (S.Rept. 107-149)
In addition to the above arguments, the level of foreign language proficiency
attained by graduate students is likely to be substantially higher than for
In contrast, supporters of the current NSEP undergraduate scholarship program
have argued that it provides a relatively rare opportunity for federally-funded foreign
travel at a point in their educational careers at which most students are deciding upon
the path they will follow for their graduate study and future careers. Only one other,
relatively small, federal program — the Gilman International Scholarship Program14
— supports foreign travel opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students, and it is not
focused on critical foreign languages or world regions.15
In addition, the argument that graduate students are more likely to pursue a
career in a national security position with the federal government would not seem to
be supported by data on the ways in which scholarship and fellowship recipients have
met their service requirements thus far. According to cumulative data for 1996-2002
provided by NSEP staff, the percentage of undergraduate scholarship recipients who
have taken federal positions (93%) is much higher than the percentage of graduate
fellowship recipients who have met their service requirement by taking federal
positions (50%). Thus far, it appears that graduate fellowship recipients are much
more likely to meet their service requirement by taking positions in higher education.
This is most likely to occur with respect to students in doctoral (as opposed to
master’s) degree programs.
Service Requirement and Linkages to National Security
Throughout the life of the NSEP, and especially after the adoption of
amendments to the NSEA service requirements in 1996 (by P.L. 104-201, the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997), some members of the
U.S. academic community have expressed concern about the linkages between this
program and the DOD, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other federal national
security agencies. This concern arises not only from the NSEP’s service requirement
— the obligation to seek employment in a national security position (although not
necessarily in a national security agency) — but also other linkages between the
program and national security agencies — e.g., administration of the program by the
DOD, under the auspices of the National Defense University; and representation of
national security agencies on the NSEB.
14 This program is authorized by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 (Title
III of P.L.106-309).
15 The Gilman International Scholarship Program authorizes the appropriation of $1.5
million per year for scholarships of up to $5,000 for U.S. citizen undergraduate students.
The scholarships may be used to pay the costs of travel plus tuition and related study abroad
expenses. In order to be eligible students must be recipients of financial assistance under
ED’s Pell Grant program — i.e., undergraduate students from relatively low-income
families. In the selection of grant recipients, preference is given to those who have not
previously studied abroad. Students may study any subject, and travel to any region of the
world (except Cuba or a country identified in a “travel warning” issued by the Department
of State). Unlike the NSEP, there is no service requirement. The Gilman program is
administered by the Department of State, via the non-governmental Institute of International
The NSEA explicitly prohibits scholarship and fellowship recipients from being
required to “undertake any activity” on behalf of any federal agency, as a condition
for receipt of their assistance, while engaged in their subsidized education program.
In addition, as noted earlier, the service requirement has been interpreted relatively
broadly in practice to include positions in a wide range of federal agencies (see
footnote 9). Further, the length of the service requirement — generally equal to the
period of time for which aid was received — is shorter than for some other
scholarship or loan forgiveness programs, requiring service for only a few months to
two years in general.
Further, cumulative (1996-2002) data provided by NSEP staff on federal
employment of scholarship and fellowship recipients indicate that a majority have
met their service requirement by taking positions outside the DOD, CIA, and similar
national security agencies. First, 50% of graduate fellowship recipients, and 7% of
undergraduate scholarship recipients, have met their service requirement by taking
positions in higher education institutions, not the federal government. Second,
among those taking federal positions to meet their service requirement, more than
one-half have taken positions in agencies other than the DOD, CIA, and similar
national security agencies.16
Nevertheless, critics of these linkages have expressed concern that participating
students would be treated with suspicion and might even be in danger abroad if they
are identifiable as possible future employees of U.S. intelligence and defense
agencies. Concern has been expressed about the safety of participants as well as the
cooperation of foreign educational institutions if the NSEA is perceived as being
related to the U.S. national security agencies.
While critics of this aspect of the NSEP have expressed concerns about all of
the program’s grant programs, such criticism has most recently been focused
primarily on the current and prospective institutional grant programs, including the
National Flagship Language Initiative. Critics have argued that the linkages between
the NSEP and national security agencies affect only individual students under the
scholarship and fellowship programs, while involving, at least indirectly, entire IHEs
which accept institutional grants. According to a statement by the Board of Directors
of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA),
[W]e have (1992, 1995) noted our strong reservations concerning the decision
to locate the NSEP administration in the Department of Defense and the
involvement of the CIA on the Board that oversees the NSEP. We believe it is
essential to maintain the administrative independence of such programs from
government agencies involved in national security .... [W]e are apprehensive that
the proposed establishment of university programs will link all participating
students by association with Defense Department language study funding
through the institutional grants that NFLI-P [National Flagship Language
16 The agencies at which scholarship recipients have most often taken positions are the
Department of State (27%), DOD (20%), the Congress (14%), and Department of
Commerce (8%). The agencies at which fellowship recipients have most often taken
positions are the U.S. Agency for International Development (30%), DOD (18%),
Department of State (14%), and Department of Commerce (8%).
Initiative-Pilot program] has announced .... A government-funded program that
emphasizes cooperation between the U.S. academy and government agencies
responsible for intelligence and defense will increase the difficulties and dangers
of such academic activities, and may foster the already widespread impression
that academic researchers from the United States are directly involved in
government activities. This may discourage foreign colleagues from
collaboration with Americans in scholarly projects. Ultimately, such a program
may actually undermine the research and teaching of languages, histories and
culture that area studies programs in U.S. universities strive to advance .... We
urge that funding for second-language acquisition, like other educational
programs, be administered through the Department of Education .... We
recommend that MESA members and institutions not seek or accept funding for17
the NFLI-P as presently defined, constituted, and administered.
In contrast, supporters of the service requirement and other NSEP linkages with
national security agencies argue that they are consistent with what they view as being
the primary purposes of the program, and help to assure that the federal government
receives an appropriate return for its investment in persons aided by the program.
While other federal programs supporting foreign language and area studies are
administered by the Departments of Education and State, they argue, those other
programs have broader purposes than the NSEP. The statement of purpose in the
NSEA focuses primarily on helping to meet the national security needs of the United
States and expanding the pool of applicants for employment in U.S. government
agencies with national security responsibilities, while also mentioning the somewhat
broader goals of increasing the “quantity, diversity, and quality” of teaching and
learning of foreign language and area studies critical to the Nation’s interest,
expanding the foreign language and area studies knowledge base upon which both
U.S. citizens and government employees can rely, and permitting the federal
government to “advocate the cause of international education” (50 U.S.C. § 1901).
Supporters of the program’s current provisions and structure argue that this mixture
of purposes is consistent with the NSEP’s linkages to national security agencies,
combined with flexibility in other respects (e.g., alternative of service in higher
education, opportunity to meet the service requirement in a relatively wide variety of
federal agencies, and relatively short term of required service). In fact, if the primary,
distinctive purpose of the NSEP is to increase the number of individuals with
specialized language skills in national security positions, the service requirement
might even be tightened — for example, by lengthening the required period of
service, narrowing the variety of federal agencies at which the service requirement
may be met, or eliminating the alternative of meeting the service requirement through
employment in higher education.
17 See [http://fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc/boardletters.htm].