The NLSC is America’s premier all-volunteer group of language professionals, serving language needs across the federal government at home and abroad.
To foster a large, global cadre of highly qualified linguists to serve Federal Government agencies.
To improve federal agencies’ readiness to respond quickly and accurately to national security events, domestic or foreign disasters, and non-emergency surge activities that require language expertise to improve the security and welfare of the nation.
In 2007, the DoD launched the NLSC as a pilot program to identify and recruit on-call, volunteer, civilian language specialists to achieve their desired language capabilities. Initially, the NLSC aimed to maintain a pool of linguists proficient in ten languages. Since then, the NLSC has expanded its capabilities to support over 414 languages and dialects. To meet the increasing need for professionals with language skills, in 2018 the NLSC extended its support beyond DoD organizations to all Federal Government agencies.
External stakeholders have recognized NLSC’s contributions and efforts. In 2017, the National Security Education Program recognized the NLSC’s expanding breadth of support, noting that “the NLSC is experiencing a growing role in providing support with members who not only have language expertise, but also domain, regional, and cultural expertise.” In 2018, Congress commended the NLSC for “the significant contributions…and efforts to respond rapidly to assist U.S. Departments and agencies to fulfill a wide range of foreign language needs.” NLSC members have proven to be a vital national asset to support training, combat operations, disaster relief, international emergency response, and coalition building.
Congress authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish the NLSC in Section 953 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which is codified as Section 1913 of Title 50 of the U.S. Code (U.S.C). The National Security Education Board (NSEB) serves as the governing and advisory body for NLSC, as directed in 50 U.S.C. Chapter 37. NSEB’s 14 members include representatives from eight Cabinet-level departments as well as six presidentially-appointed members. Today, the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) administers NLSC on behalf of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Advised by the NSEB on policy and strategy, DLNSEO develops and executes programs to remedy foreign culture and language shortfalls across the government. NLSC is one of these programs, and it is unique among them for the operational support it provides across the entire U.S. Government. When NLSC members support government agencies, they are hired as temporary experts and consultants in the excepted service, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3109 and 5 U.S.C. § 2103. Members who activate receive a small honorarium for their service.
Governing Documents50 U.S.C. § 1913: National Language Service Corps
50 U.S.C. Ch 37: National Security Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants
5 U.S.C. § 3109: Employment of Experts and Consultants; Temporary or Intermittent
5 U.S.C. § 2103: The Excepted Service
32 C.F.R. 251 – National Language Service Corps (NLSC), July 1, 2016
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
DoD Instruction 1110.02, “National Language Service Corps,” December 7, 2015
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 Conference Report
National Security Education Program 2017 Annual Report
Defense Language Transformation Roadmap
National Security Education Program
Defense Language and National Security Education Office
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness