Cyber Warlords Push COIN, Social Science

By John Stanton

Cyber Warlords Push COIN, Social Science

42321.jpegAnyone familiar with the US Army's Human Terrain System knew that it wouldn't be long until the same principles upon which the HTS program were built would be used by the US national security machinery to justify a cyber-surge of the Internet. A similar attempt was made beginning in the mid/late-1990's by President Bill Clinton but the collective thinking by US government and corporate leaders-ignorance really--was that the Internet might turn out to be an economic and technological bust, a sort of niche application for amusement.

They did not foresee that the Internet would be used as a revelatory tool by the global community to bypass and challenge all the dominant information streams leaders had previously used to govern, command, fight, buy or sell. Nor did they anticipate the importance the Internet would come to play-and challenges it would present--in the global spread of war, commerce, trade and culture in and amongst the nations of the world.

With that backdrop it's no surprise that America's government/corporate leaders failed to prepare American troops for the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence the ill-advised development and fielding of programs like the US Army's Human Terrain System/Bowman Expeditions (Mexico) as retro-fixes for institutional/cultural ignorance and arrogance.

Win the Hearts and Minds of Gluons, Photons and Bosons!

The Cyber Terrain is the next big enigma, never mind that many layers of the Human Terrain onion haven't been peeled back and studied. The Pentagon's CYBERCOM and heavy weight contractors like Lockheed Martin are keen to get on with the cyber expeditionary task. For example, in March 2010, Lockheed Martin Human Terrain experts produced a paper titled Dynamic Data and Modeling Suite in which we learn the following:

"This paper presents the feasibility of a complete services suite for end-to-end systems integration of data and modeling services that is tailored for use by commanders, military advisors and intelligence analysts involved in Counter-insurgency Operations. Through the integration of existing and innovative technologies including automated harvesting of near real-time data from the cyber domain, the Dynamic Data and Modeling Services Suite will enable astute socio-cultural behavior exploration. The existing proof-of-concept fusion environment feeds its predictive behavior models with comprehensive human terrain data from dynamic sources [including social networks].

It is our assertion that Users desire new applications that capitalize on technological advancements in behavioral modeling and data integration in order to achieve maximum mission success in the irregular warfare environment. The existing Environment leverages these technological advancements to enable Users to ingest, manage, store and model human terrain intelligence that is essential to COIN operations. Future work to form the complete Suite will further increase model accuracy by harvesting and integrating online social networking data. This OSINT data is evolving into a pertinent, though largely untapped, source for near real-time behavioral information."

The USA's Great Cyber Leap Forward threatens to encumber the Internet and its many applications as well as usher in an era of censorship by US government and corporate interests.

If ever the Pentagon fields some type of Cyber Terrain System (CYBERCOM?), here's hoping that it does not mirror the US Army's Human Terrain System as initially designed and managed.

Back to the Human Terrain System

"The complaints are so numerous and of such a nature as to keep Colonel Hamilton [acting HTS program manager] from doing her job," sources claimed. They indicated that there is an ongoing investigation into the activities of Jeff Bowden, a key member of the program. This has an ongoing, negative influence on the functioning of the HTS program. Rumors abound, they said, of Bowden's biased hiring practices that favor his friends and former service branch.

"The Army's Human Terrain System program has such a bad reputation that it is openly shunned by the Fort Leavenworth military community. Personnel in the program who have good reputations have been warned to get out before their reputations are ruined."

Apparently, there are some 80 Equal Opportunity, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (EEO) claims that remain open within the HTS program. According to sources, "Poor management can be recognized by the way an organization treats its employees. The many complaints reflect failed leadership." They allege that Bowden and other members of the HTS management team--who are/were McNeill, AECOM employees-are at the receiving end of some of these complaints.

As incredible as it seems, sources report that "people hide in their offices to avoid Bowden's relentless prodding for oaths of allegiance to him and his insistence on attacking past or current employees who speak out against his poor leadership style." They also allege that "He [Bowden] uses his government position to conduct character assassinations. He has asked many of us to give him statements slandering present and past employees. And when we refuse he adds us to his hit list and asks our fellow employees to make statements about our performance."

Sources claim that Bowden's "Training Redesign" is shallow and completely irrelevant. "It was developed s in a vacuum with the input of just a few subcontractors [McNeil-AECOM] and the highest paid instructor in the program who continually receives the lowest student rating."

Observers said this was "by design as it allows Bowden the freedom to make sweeping changes to the curriculum without full disclosure of the impact?

The Fort Polk Solution

Sources report that the HTS curriculum review/redesign is almost complete. Some though, are unsure whether what is being proposed in the review/redesign will actually assist the program or make it worse.

"And what is the great training solution that will save the program? Ship the trainees to Fort Polk in Louisiana to take part in the eight week Foreign Security Forces Combat Advisor training program. If you think hiring has been tough in the past, try convincing 40 something anthropologists to go to Fort Polk. Will this contribute to the integration of the team into a Brigade, Division or the Corps?"

The Combat Advisor Training seems to be a good idea. Providing some hard-core CAT for trainees before they deploy and attempting to simulate the dangerous environment they will be operating in makes sense. Still, observers see an Achilles Heel. "The real challenge is the first week at the beginning of the training. Personnel security, health and administrative requirements to meet deployment must be 100 percent complete. Trouble is the HTS program has never been 100% on personnel for deployment. In fact there have been several issues in the completion of the background investigations and rumors of changing or altering records to improve students' profiles and provide a gateway to classified material."

Observers said there are other issues with the Fort Polk Solution. By sending the teams to the eight weeks of training at Fort Polk they are out-of-sight and out-of-mind; basically pushed down the road. They say they "don't have to listen to them whine and complain about how they are treated."

HTS trainees will spend ten weeks in Fort Leavenworth and the eight weeks at Fort Polk. After that they go directly into theater wherever they are needed.

Observers say that "Fort Polk is a projection platform. Pass go, collect $100 and into country. No time off or family contact."

Sources report that there are five members of the {HTS] program who are actually going to go through the training and, once completed, provide their assessments to upper management. They are "all white males" said sources echoing complaints that HTS management is not a big fan of diversity.

Some believe that the Fort Polk Solution will "kill the HTS program."

Cyber Terrain Meets Human Terrain-COIN-HTS

In 2009, social scientists were asked by the US government to help Cyber Warriors understand the Cyber Terrain. Cyber Terrain offensive and defensive strategies and tactics have been discussed for decades* now but in 2010 there is a treasure trove of government cash available to public and private interests, CYBERCOM among them, to keep the cyber world open for business and military operations. It is likely that the world will soon learn about Cyber Terrain Teams operating in accordance with some sort of Cyber Counterinsurgency warfare doctrine not dissimilar to those developed by each of the major uniformed services.

Of course, this means that gigabytes of propaganda will appear promoting a new Cyber Cold War that pits West against East. Rather than the "cultural turn", it'll be the "cyber turn." Who knows who will become the General David Petraeus of the Cyber COIN world?

At any rate, Cryptome recently posted a transcript from the Hearing on Agency Response to Cyberspace Policy Review, 16 June 2009, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, Committee on Science and Technology. During that hearing, Congressman Daniel Lipinski opined that "We need a cultural change in the way Americans practice their computer hygiene. Computer scientists need to team with social scientists to gain a better understanding of how humans interact with and utilize technology."

"Human terrain knowledge deficiencies exist at all command echelons," says the US Army's retooled Human Terrain System website.

Now it's "Cyber Terrain deficiencies exist at all command echelons."

John Stanton

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Author`s name John Stanton