US Army Human Terrain System in disarray
By John Stanton
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Aug 15, 2008, 00:22
According to sources, United States Army brigade commanders
privately believe that the US Army Training and Doctrine Command�s (TRADOC)
Human Terrain System (HTS) program is a �joke� and completely unnecessary. The
HTS program is publicly supported by brigade military commanders, and Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates, only because it is a �pet project� of the currently
politically popular US Army General David Petraeus.
BAE Systems, the prime contractor on the project, has
repeatedly been pressured by the HTS program manager and his staff to hire
individuals who are not field-experienced ethnographers/anthropologists, but
rather Google-fed political and social scientists. In two cases, pre-security
clearance award investigations revealed that one candidate recommended for hire
by senior staff was a felon. The other candidate had health problems that would
have compromised the functions of a deployed Human Terrain Team (HTT). BAE
Systems has been the punching bag for the poor decision making of HTS program
managers and advisors.
The tragic deaths of two HTS members -- HTT IZ3 Nicole
Suveges and HTT AF1 Michael Bhatia -- came amidst program management�s
confusion over roles and missions, ignorance of threat situations, even dress
code problems. Key questions remain open. What�s the role of a civilian
ethnographer/anthropologist working with the military in a combat zone? Is a
civilian trained to respond to a threat without threatening the life of the
team? Should they carry weapons and wear military gear? Are they there to
enhance the kill chain, organize and facilitate sporting events, or examine
trash dumps for behavioral patterns? What kind of data do war-fighters and
negotiators really want? What happens when the HTT leaves the site of success?
What�s the historical experience of the US military with human geographers?
(see David Price�s Anthropolgical
Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second
World War, Duke University Press, 2008).
Whether all this mattered in the deaths of Suveges and
Bhatia is utterly debatable. But according to sources, Suveges was a no-show at
many training sessions at Fort Leavenworth and not properly trained for work in
a combat zone. She was sent initially to the United Kingdom to recruit there
for the HTS program and then afterwards was ultimately deployed to the volatile
Sadr City in Iraq where three weeks later she met her end. One insider had
predicted prior to her death that �someone was going to get killed.�
One of the HTS prime movers, TRADOC HTS Senior Social
Scientist, Mrs. Montgomery McFate (Phd, JD), took a seven-month sabbatical on
the eve of the first deployment of the HTT�s to Iraq in 2007. Whatever guidance
she had to offer the fledgling HTT�s would have to wait months �til her
sabbatical ended. Not bad for a $200,000 base salary and $200,000 in overtime,
according to reports.
Allegations of HTS members plagiarizing Defense Intelligence
Agency reports and articles from anthropology-specific blogs have been made.
Remotely using search engines/databases and attending conferences to troll for
HTS-related data, and passing that off as legitimate field data, are also alleged.
HTS program funds may also have been used to allow participants to gain
At the helm of it all is program manager Steve Fondacaro who
has been described as a �great used car salesman� but not interested in
programmatic details. One of his current goals is to market the HTS program to
the controversial AFRICOM project and keep the funding alive. But his task will
be difficult. On his watch, the Pentagon/taxpayers lost $15 million on the MAP
HT software/hardware effort. The MAP HT software/hardware apparently sits
unusable with the blue wiring connections still hanging from shelves where the
system was to have been housed and operated.
Sources indicate that sexual dalliances, falsified leave
forms, crony no-bid contracts to Fondacaro colleagues (one in which
deliverables were not fully provided), and verbal harassment of civilian staff
have compromised the US Army�s TRADOC program. The hiring of a former Lincoln
Group strategic communications specialist to handle public relations is a sure
sign of trouble.
Worse still, the reach-back center at Fort Leavenworth
remains understaffed. According to a source, the staff is �in a pinch� because
Fondacaro is alleged to have used billets meant for reach-back operations to
hire non-essential staff. Reach-back staff at Fort Leavenworth and HTT members
in the field �do not communicate,� according to reports.
It is not clear whether Secretary Gates or General Petraeus
are aware of these problems but they should be. War-fighters in the battlespace
should not have to spend their time babysitting those who have an itch to play
Army or engage in a proof-of-concept program that has, in one form or another,
been behind every US attempt to colonize and/or subdue an intransigent
population since the nation�s founding. While the funding for the HTS program
is not large, mere millions, that money could be used to enhance training for
Special Operations fighters or even buy better equipment for them. America�s
uniformed soldiers have been experimented with and on -- whether via faulty
national security policy and tactics or recycled physical and social science --
for the last seven years. That�s enough!
Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security and
political matters. His latest book is Talking Politics with God & the Devil
in Washington, DC. Reach him at email@example.com.
Part II of this subject to follow Monday.
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