by John Stanton
“I've experienced the loss of close comrades before but it never gets easier. Paula Loyd is now free from pain caused by the doing the job we believed in.”
“My mind boggles, especially at the apparent lack of official interest by ‘Big Army’ in addressing and rectifying this situation.”
“Everyone with half a brain knows that this thing is totally in disarray. No one knows their asses from holes in the ground!”
“The end result is clear and quite simple to see: A group of inept, incompetent, self-serving contractors whose only desire is to promote their personal agenda. This single fact is the reason that the HTS program, no matter how noble, will ultimately fail.”
“The management of the Human Terrain System (HTS) program hiring practice is based on not what you know, but who you know, or who you’re related to. Qualifications are secondary.”
It seems that the information technology (IT) department of Hamas is far more qualified than its counterparts in the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). And Hamas management apparently is more sensitive to its fallen combatants, plus its presence in the Internet, than Steve Fondacaro, the program manager of the HTS program, and Montgomery McFate, the Senior Social Scientist. The Hamas website (http://www.alqassam.ps/english/?action=) is vivid, updated, and displays dozens of the obituaries, with pictures, of many of its KIA’s—some very recent. It appears standard operating procedure for the Hamas IT staff and management to get that information online ASAP.
In contrast Paula Loyd’s obituary finally appeared on the HTS website on 13 January 2009 (http://humanterrainsystem.army.mil/paula.html) only after a very loud outcry from current and former HTS staff, academia, and other interested parties. Moreover, at this writing, the HTS website has not been overhauled since October 2008. The simple task of maintaining a website is just one more in a long list of troubles that the HTS program has. Yet hand it to Fondacaro and McFate, they keep the money rolling in (for a copy of the Fondacaro-McFate road-show/status briefing titled HTS Information Briefing for Army G3, 16 October 2008, contact email@example.com). This should raise questions about the caliber of US military leaders who buy a program that has no hard audit of its measures-of-effectiveness (MOE) and has a documented history of troubles dating back to its days in JIEDDO.
Outsource to Hamas IT?
According to sources, the delay in memorializing Loyd’s death was because the former HTS IT department lacked the expertise/military accreditation to edit the site since it resides on a military domain. Montgomery McFate requested that the website be updated when Loyd was first injured but that did not happen because the webmaster, a former S6 in the US Army, had just completed his mobilization tour at Fort Leavenworth . According to sources, the remaining IT staff at Fort Leavenworth (mainly contractors) did not possess the skills required to edit the website. They also did not have the required military credentials to maintain a US Department of Defense web site.
“The website is technically broken. The menu bar at the top of the page is supposed to contain white text that displays a blue text drop down menu when the user places the curser over the word. But it’s all blue now, aesthetically very unappealing and difficult to read. It has not been fixed/updated, due to the shortcomings of the HTS IT department,“ said sources.
Unqualified HTS IT staff may also explain why the nonfunctioning MAP-HT software package has been completely outsourced to Overwatch Tactical, a subsidiary of Textron.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Fondacaro and McFate were recently pitching the HTS program to AFRICOM and, according to Wired’s Danger Room (http://www.wired.com/), were successful. According to sources, “They have been very successful in wasting the government’s money. The HTS concept was sound at one point but management lost sight of the purpose of the program and is responsible for trying to grow the HTS Empire so quickly that it cuts corners in critical areas like training. Instead of trying to fix identified program problems, Fondacaro and Steve Rotkoff (Deputy Program Manger) fire those that ask questions and refuse to resign, and then hire and train staff who quickly learn not to ask questions about inadequate training.”
Another source wondered how AFRCIOM could buy the “’capabilities’ and services of HTS even if there are no units deployed to AFRICOM. Why would they have any need for HTTs?”
According to sources, HTS management employs people that do not have directly relevant experience nor should they be allowed the privilege of holding a US security clearance. Two recent cases have come to light. In one case, there is a social scientist that spent most of her time in Southeast Asia and has resided in Jakarta . One source had this to say: “What does she expect in Afghanistan ! This is war! These people do not have the foggiest idea of what they are getting involved in.
In the other somewhat disturbing instance, if true, there is an HTS staff member who allegedly “has a known drug problem that has been brought up to the higher-ups but nothing has been done. There are people who are refusing to go to Afghanistan with him or to be on his team. He also has a severe gambling problem and before joining the program was living out of his car. He got the job because he knows McFate. Everyone with half a brain knows that this thing is totally in disarray. No one knows their asses from holes in the ground! There are those who started this program thinking it would be a good thing and that it would help the soldiers. You really see now that it is about Greed. The leadership is incestuous.”
According to other sources, competent staff who tried their best to make things work have been punished. “Another HTT Team Leader, Timothy W. Johnson (Retired Special Forces Major) and one of his Social Scientists (Retired Special Forces), both assigned to the USMC in Anbar , Iraq , were ordered home by Steve Rotkoff, per Steve Fondacaro. Reason: repeatedly asking for support from HQ Building 48. Social Scientist , Wayne Blye (Retired Navy Captain), is still waiting for a meeting with Rotkoff and Fondacaro. He was ordered to return from Iraq more than six weeks ago for a meeting. Until then he waits in a hotel.”
With the approval of HTS management, sources say, University of California Irvine English Professor Carol Burke , a noted folklorist, was “observing” HTT’s in action. Burke is scheduled to present a paper on Combat Ethnography on 5 March 2009 at the University’s International Studies section. It may well be that her travels and observations were in preparation for that event. She has been contacted for further details on her effort.
Or, maybe the HTS program will be reborn as the Combat Ethnography Program.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security and political matters. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org