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FAOweb Opens Early for Warrior-Diplomats in Afghanistan

By Kate Lamar

Posted December 23, 2009

IT team membersThe Joint Foreign Area Officer Skill Sustainment Pilot Program (JFSSPP), a new Department of Defense initiative housed in the School of International Graduate Studies at NPS, is opening a portion of its soon-to-be-launched FAOweb for Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) stationed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. FAOs are military service members with extensive language training and expertise in the culture, politics and strategic affairs of a specific country or region, who provide guidance to in-country military decision makers.

FAOweb, opening in January, is an online portal that will provide distance learning and community networking for FAOs across the four services – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

“Word got out in the FAO community that we were doing this – building FAOweb,” said Jon Russell, Director of Academic and Media Systems for NPS Information Technology and Communication Services. “One of the FAOs in Afghanistan got in touch with us saying they actually needed it before January.”

Lt. Col. Rich Outzen, Liaison Officer of the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force to the Regional Command Capital in Kabul, requested early access to the site to share lessons learned and best practices among FAOs in country and to help prepare those slated to arrive shortly in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region.  FAOweb's value as a critical communication tool prompted Outzen to request an early launch of select parts of FAOweb, including a document repository and discussion board.

“The request came on December 10th,” Russell said. “We were able to separate out some of the capabilities of the larger FAOweb that they needed immediately and provide them access by December 16th.”

“We recognized the urgency of the request and were able to push up the release date for a few of its functions,” said Dr. Tristan Mabry, Executive Director of JFSSPP. “This is what FAOweb is all about – providing critical resources to Foreign Area Officers in the field.”

According to Russell, the AfPak FAOs can look forward to the actual launch in January, when they will gain access to the entire FAOweb portal, including the skills sustainment component made up of distance learning modules, language courses, and a range of professional networking features that will allow them to connect on many different levels.

FAOweb meets a genuine need within the FAO community by creating one location for FAOs across the globe among the four services to connect, share information, and brush up their cultural and linguistic knowledge base via a protected web portal.

A cutting-edge example of Web 2.0 technology, FAOweb will expand and adapt in coming years as courses and language resources are developed by professors at the Naval Postgraduate School, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, and by the FAOs themselves.

Visit the FAO program web site for more information.

Photos by Javier Chagoya

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