Resources for working with the US government

Translators and language service providers wondering which groups in the US government work with translation or need translation services may turn to many resources.

Federal Business Opportunities, known as FedBizOpps (, replaced Commerce Business Daily as a means of announcing US government Requests for Proposal (RFPs). One means of searching the site and of signing up to receive announcements related to translation is to enter the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for translators and interpreters: 541930. Users of FedBizOpps can sign up to receive automatic updates on their interests, such as announcements of future RFPs that include the terms Spanish and translation.

The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) at is a non-funded interagency organization established for coordinating and sharing information about language-related activities at the federal level. It allows departments of the US government to keep abreast of techniques and technology for language testing and other language-related activities. ILR plenary meetings typically include more than 30 federal agencies and several academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. Non-governmental participants are welcome not only to the plenaries, but also to committee meetings, such as the Translation and Interpretation Committee, which focuses on the use of machine translation, evaluation of translation or interpretation ability, and the training and certification of skilled translators and interpreters.  Meetings are held once a month, except in August. The schedule and plenary topics can be found at

In addition, the ILR provides descriptions of language proficiency skill levels and the ILR scale for measuring these skill levels. It also includes information on translation and interpretation proficiency. This information may be useful for understanding broader US government needs. The ILR also provides links to internet information on language careers in the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other US government organizations at

The National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC) at was established “for the purpose of providing timely and accurate translations of foreign intelligence for all elements of the Intelligence Community.” NVTC provides testing and in some cases clearances for translators. The NVTC has the goals of acting as a clearinghouse for facilitating interagency use of translators; partnering with government, academic and private industries to identify translator resources and engage their services; building a nationwide team of highly qualified, motivated linguists and translators; and augmenting existing government translation capabilities, including technology, to maximize translator efficiency.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) includes foreign military sales. Sales of technology to other countries could be a good application for translation, although DSCA has rarely been involved with translating documentation. Their internet website is The US Department of State Language Services hires contractor translators and interpretors. See


Suggested reading

One useful resource for learning about government translation is the book Translating and Interpreting in the U.S. Government by Ted Crump, published in 2001. This book includes descriptions of over 70 organizations in the US Government that employ translators or interpreters. For each organization, information — albeit circa 2001 — is provided on the language pairs used, the mission, the number of translators, security clearances required and contact information.

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics included a substantial section on translation and interpretation in their Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. The handbook is available free in web form at

Show and tell

There are many ways to reach US government organizations with information about language products and services, including the US General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule. Companies providing translation services and/or tools can get a contract with the GSA, which will then be applicable to all fed-eral agencies (see GSA then publishes a schedule or list of these contractors.  Using the GSA schedule greatly simplifies purchasing for government customers. For purchases under $2500, many customers can order with a government credit card. For purchases over $2500, they can consult three price lists or GSA Advantage at

Note that there are two GSA schedules that focus on language: GSA Schedule 738-1 for Products and GSA Schedule 738-2 for Services (including human translation and interpretation). To obtain a listing on the GSA Language Product Schedule and/or to participate in GSA Advantage, download the language product solicitation from, complete the form and send it to the address provided. When contacted by a contracting officer, negotiate pricing. Post your information on the GSA Advantage website following the directions which will be sent to you on a CD. Additional information is available at

In-Q-Tel is a nonprofit organization that reviews products and research for the government. Applications for evaluation are at


The Language Technology Resource Center (LTRC) was set up by MITRE Corporation for the US government to provide information on available and upcoming language tools. The site includes a tools survey based on information needs from government planners, acquisitions officers, systems administrators, programmers and users. The survey can be filled out online or in an Excel form. See



The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has a new program called “Babel: Addressing the Language Deluge” at

According to the Babel website, the goal of the Babel program is to develop methods of building speech recognition technology for a larger set of languages than has hitherto been addressed. The program requires innovations in how to rapidly model a language with significantly less training data — data that is noisy and heterogeneous. Babel’s technical measures of success are focused on how well the model works to support effective word-based searches of noisy channel speech in various languages. The new methods will be systematized so that they can be applied rapidly to a novel, underserved language. The program seeks technical innovations in multilingual speech processing; linguistics to ensure portability across languages; and word search to support the application of the speech models. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) funds industrial and academic research in a variety of ways. The Small Business Innovation Research Program funds research and development proposals from small businesses. They also offer other grants to encourage work in specific fields including precision measurement, fire research and materials science. Grants and awards supporting research at industry, academic and other institutions are available on a competitive basis through several different institute offices. The NIST 2011 solicitation was issued November 4, 2010, and was closed January 28, 2011. The 2012 solicitation should be about the same timeframe. For general information on NIST grants programs, contact Christopher Hunton at 

NIST also has a Technology Innovation Program (, which is intended to “support, promote and accelerate innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need.” It has the agility and flexibility to make targeted investments in transformational research and development.

Grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the National Endowment for the Arts are listed at The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a “Find Funding” site enabling users to search across all NSF programs at Language-related grant opportunities include:

Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS):

Developing Global Scientists and Engineers (International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) and Doctoral Dissertation Enhancement Projects (DDEP)):

Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL);

Native American Language Preserva-

tion and Maintenance:

NEA Literature Fellowships: Translation Projects, FY 2012:

Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow (TCT): Programs for Master’s Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, or Critical Foreign Language Education CFDA Number 84.381B: