When the country needed professional soldiers to officer its Army, West Point was created in 1802.
When it needed professional sailors to officer its ships, Annapolis came into being in 1845.
When the national interest required a highly skilled cadre of lifetime professionals, the county established colleges where those skill sets could be learned, whether artillery, engineering, sailing or flying. At the same leadership and ethics were made part of the curriculum, and detailed profiles of the students were developed so that the needs of the various services could be matched with the grraduating class.
Though far from the exclusive entry into the leadership ranks, the academy system allows for the training of thousands of prepared young officers every year who arrive with a very specific background suited to the tasks ahead.
When I read the Washington Post story on the FBI’s struggle to find Arabic proficient agents this morning, it occurred to me again that what the country needs with this long war ahead is an academy dedicated to producing law enforcement/homeland security professionals who arrive at their first job with a skills package that includes the languages and technology training that the modern FBI/CIA/NSA/Homeland Security Agency need in alrge numbers. Recruiting from college campuses will always be necessary, just as it is for the military services who then send the able would-be officers off to OCS of one sort or another.
But if you want and need a particular type of young professional, the quickest and most secure way to get them is to buy them as the military does via the service academies. The midshipmen and cadets get a free education. The country gets their service for at least five years, and often for their entire careers.
The president should ask Congress to work with him to establish such an academy and to staff it and enroll a class asap. (No tenure for the faculty, please!) There are a legion of superb uniformed faculty at the academies who can get such a school opened, and scores of retired or nearing retirement professionals from the agencies that would be looking to the new academy for recruits who can assist in designing the specialized curriculum.
And Arabic, Chinese, Farsi or some other critical language skill would not be an elective, but a required course depending on the needs of the country’s law enforcement/counterterrorism agencies.
There would be a battle over where to put the new academy of course, though a border state with high tech resources and training opportunities makes sense –say, Texas– but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated: If the FBI can’t find Arabic speakers, then the country needs to find a different way of producing them.