Unsurprising, since it seems to be a consistent criticism, the main challenge according to Negroponte is "the need for officers who can speak the languages of the world." As anyone who has spent even a little time trying to learn a language, it's a challenge to rewire your brain, not to mention the part about learning new words, grammatical constructions, and alphabets (or not so much alphabets with certain non-phonetic written languages - I'm looking at you Japanese and Chinese!).
But I wonder how big a problem this is. It's not like there isn't a Foreign Service Institute, which has a specific goal of training FSO's in whatever languages are needed. And I imagine most FSO's are pretty thrilled about learning new languages. If language acquisition and fluency is a problem in the FS, a key portion of the article explains why: "Another challenge is the widely held perception among Foreign Service officers that State's promotion system does not consider time spent in language training when evaluating officers for promotion, which may discourage officers from investing the time required to achieve proficiency in certain languages," the report said. Although HR officials dispute this perception, the department has not conducted a statistically significant assessment of the impact of language training on promotions."
Not to be blunt, but if this is a valid criticism, then the State Department would need to really commit to the additional expense and time necessary for appropriate training. Any FSO's out there have any thoughts on this?