Congress' Human Terrain assessment vanishes

Politically Charged Study Withdrawn from Military Website

by John Stanton

43439.jpegThe Center for Naval Analyses report (CNAR) on the US Army's Human Terrain System (HTS) was available online at DTIC about 24 hours ago. Now the CNAR report is MIA. Fortunately a download is available at this website. Activating any of the links to the CNAR brings back these messages:

"The resource you requested has been withdrawn for administrative reasons. For additional information, contact the DTIC help desk at 800-225-3842 or [email protected]. No full text document exists for this AD Number."

A call into the DTIC Help desk on 19 February (wait music featured WASH FM soft rock from the Average White Band, Casey and the Sunshine Band, Madonna, Seal, Lady Gaga, U2, Katie Perry, et al). After holding for 2 hours it was not possible to handle the recorded message "currently all agents are busy, please hold for the next available agent..." breaking into each song every 20 seconds or so. The last straw was the song "Shake Your Booty" mixed with "please hold for the next available agent."

The CNAR is a huge file so the download time to retrieve the report was fairly lengthy. So it could be that there were too many requests and the DTIC network could not handle them all.

On the other hand, the CNAR report is as much a Washington, DC, political exercise as it is an "objective" technocratic assessment. Apparently the downloadable report is not the original document, that being far more critical of HTS and the TRADOC leadership led by General Martin Dempsey, US Army. Dempsey has been nominated for Chief of Staff of the US Army.

There are some that claim the CNAR FOIA request (filed by the author) to the Pentagon OSD/Intelligence (five month wait thus far) was delayed in order to soften the severely critical tone of the original document and time its release until after General Dempsey secured the US Army Chief of Staff position. He is also under fire for his handling of other programs within TRADOC.

Though his nomination seems assured by the US Senate, he should be made to answer for the operation of a $300 million program that was mired in public controversy for over two years and led to many senseless deaths/casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 The CNAR itself acknowledges that there were a number of success stories within HTS but that institutional and management woes crippled the program. The authors of the CNAR did a bang up job rarely mincing words. Moreover, they offered many solutions which is one of the stellar points of the CNAR.

The CNAR report vindicates, again, the stories and observations of the nearly 100 sources from inside the HTS program that were responsible for the production of a staggering 50 articles written over a two year period. It is in large measure their stories that were responsible for the severe rework of the program. Sound minds in the US Congress and within the US Army/OSD-including the AR15-6 investigator should receive some sort of commendation for their efforts.

Now HTS is  evolving into a program-of-record and is unabashedly an intelligence support program as everyone knew it always was. HTS teams will be a mix of information gatherers from a variety of military, intelligence and social science disciplines mixed with US Army warfighters and combat hardened contractors.

In short, the HTT's will become multidimensional teams capable of deploying around the globe with the capability to use "civilian power" but go kinetic in the snap of a finger. The Sri Lankan soldier who once said, "I fear Human Terrain Teams more than the CIA" was quite prescient.

The HTS effort will continue during Operation New Dawn in Iraq and is ongoing in Afghanistan. According to US Army FY2012 budget documents, the HTS program will expand into other combatant commands like AFRICOM.  

According to the CNAR, US Army TRADOC leadership was largely ambivalent to the HTS program even as General David Petraeus, USA-and ostensibly the CG of TRADOC, General Dempsey--aggressively supported the effort as the premier solution to the failure of American political and military to prepare the human-cultural terrain for American soldiers.

On their watch soldier/civilian casualties (KIA, WIA), a manslaughter and hostage case, and sexual harassment cases took place within HTS. That TRADOC leadership in G2 and up the chain of command in TRADOC tolerated this state of affairs is common but utterly distasteful.

And people get promoted while people and programs crash and burn around them?

Some say that the next generation HTS is doomed because the reputation of HTS is so horrid that many in the field will try to avoid getting ensnared in the social science/intelligence combination product that HTS pushes. Within the US Army's budget documents justifying HTS and other intelligence programs, there is a note that indicates the costs have increased because more contractors are being used to perform intelligence tasks of all types--just so.

At any rate, two excerpts from the CNAR are listed below.

Download the document at the link provided above.

"It appears that HTS's most significant problems revolve around human resourcing and the level of support provided to HTS by TRADOC.' We believe that solutions to these immediate issues exist. We emphasize, however that, these issues are not new. Problems in human resourcing and support have been evident in HTS for years-and little has been done to address them to date. As a result, we conclude that a more fundamental problem may exist: there may be a lack of TRADOC institutional commitment to making HTS a success. Hence, while further exploration would need to be conducted to determine this definitively, it is possible that the HTS mission would be better served if HTS were located elsewhere, but potential alternatives are beyond the scope of this assessment."

"It, it is unclear what the exact purpose and goals of past assessments have been and who the intended audience is. It appears that the Project Management Office was the primary recipient of HTS products and that TRADOC G2 has not received or reviewed HTS assessment products. Second, the current approach has made it difficult to conduct any trend analysis of the program's development. Finally, there is not a formal process for implementing the suggestions/conclusions reached in the various assessments within HTS. Any organizational change that has come about due to past assessments has been the result of an informal decision-making process."

John Stanton

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Author`s name John Stanton