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Foreign Area Officer Program

Friday, July 12, 2019

What is it?

Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) are commissioned officers deliberately selected, trained, educated, and developed to meet worldwide Army requirements. FAOs are best described as the Army’s “Soldier Statesmen.” They are regionally-focused experts in political-military operations. They possess a unique combination of strategic focus, regional expertise, with political, cultural, sociological, economic, and geographic awareness, and foreign language proficiency.

As Career Field 48 officers, FAOs may serve in one of eight Foreign Area Officer regional areas of concentration. There are 1,142 FAOs serving in 158 countries around the world.

What are the current and past efforts of the Army?

Army Foreign Area Officers request transition from their primary career field to a full-time FAO career track, typically between 7-9 years of service. FAOs attend a fully-funded graduate program and earn a Master’s degree with a focus on their assigned region.

  • Regionally-focused training and expertise. FAOs develop political, cultural, sociological, economic, and geographic awareness of their region. They also gain foreign language proficiency in at least one of the dominant languages in their specified region over the course of their extensive three-year training pipeline.
  • Diverse assignment opportunities. FAOs will typically serve overseas as a military attaché, security assistance officer, or strategic-level political-military planner on a Geographic Combatant Commander’s or Army Service Component Commander’s staff. They may also serve as political-military planners in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Army Staff, Army Commands, or in other Department of Defense agencies.
  • Establish relationships with foreign leaders. FAOs engage foreign military leaders and government officials to help build partner capacity and facilitate foreign military training and cooperation through training and exercises. In today’s dynamic strategic environment, FAOs are critical to mission readiness.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned?

As the Army transforms, the importance of the Foreign Area Officer program is growing. Officers are selected to become FAOs through the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program (VTIP). Army Human Resources Command conducts two VTIP panels each year with a goal of between 80-90 new FAOs annually. This competitive program which effectively aligns officer attributes with Army requirements, targets officers between 7 – 9 years of service.

Why is this important to the Army?

FAOs are national assets. These Soldiers are also excellent linguists, area experts and political-military specialists. They often serve as the only Army and/or DOD representative in foreign countries, executing national security policies and objectives while serving as key advisors to build partner capacity.


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