Human Terrain Systems and Military Intelligence

There has been a lot of debate over the years about HTS’ part in the US Army’s intelligence operations function. Critics and neutral observers have known for some time that HTS is an information collections program. HTS proponents have denied that fact at every turn. At long last, that debate is finally over. The US Army’s Human Terrain System is, in fact, an intelligence gathering effort, one of many in the US Army’s impressive toolkit. A February 2010 budget request document defines and places HTS’ role as one of “intelligence support”. It further states that “this effort also provides unique capabilities needed to find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate (F3EAD) critical information pertaining to targets of interest…”

Another US Army budget document indicates this: (54) Human Terrain System – Military Intelligence Program (MIP) (SAGs:121) $17,521 million.

Evidently, someone from HTS management had a hand in writing the short plug for funding justification. Who knew that the HTS Teams were “highly acclaimed”. The question for many is: Acclaimed for What?

“Human Terrain System – Military Intelligence Program (MIP) $17,521 million. Funds the Human Terrain System (HTS) to provide necessary training, graduate-level education, and program management of highly acclaimed HTS Teams. These HTS team members have the requisite skills and abilities to deploy and embed with combat units for up to one year, providing social and cultural decision-making insight to operational commanders and their staffs.”

According to the Wikipedia editors and HTS management this is not the case. Wikipedia’s entry includes a statement that claims HTS does not “conduct military intelligence operations or kinetic targeting.” It’s the same over at the official website.  “HTTs do not proactively seek or collect actionable intelligence from the local civilian population…Team members are legally prohibited from performing active intelligence collection…The role of the HTT is neither to directly assist in lethal targeting of insurgents nor the collection of actionable military intelligence.”

But that’s not the case according to another US Army budget documents. The Department of the Army Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Supplemental Request and FY 2011 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Request dated February 2010 details the intelligence activities HTS is involved in. Quoting directly (in italics):

Description of Operations Financed:  Intelligence support to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) provides sustainment and operation of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities already operating in theater, such as Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (TUAS), Constant Hawk Full Motion Video (FMV) platforms, DCGS-A, Imagery work stations, and MASINT Ground sensors. This effort also provides unique capabilities needed to find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate (F3EAD) critical information pertaining to targets of interest in OIF. Unique capabilities provided in this category include sustainment associated with critical Intelligence initiatives coordinated closely with OSD MIP and ISR Task Force. Other key activities include continued support to the Human Terrain System (HTS) teams currently in theater, Army Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX), and sustainment of deployable TS/SCI-level communications systems such as the Joint Mobile Intelligence Communications System (JMICS).

HTS Intel Operatives

These resources are used also to selectively augment the Army intelligence workforce using government civilian or contracted personnel, as appropriate, to meet the vastly increased demand for actionable intelligence in theater. Analysts working within existing DOD and Intelligence Community (IC) organizations provide real-time or near real-time analytic products in direct support of commanders engaged in the execution of their OIF missions. This is accomplished through the collection, analysis, and fusion of multiple sources of information, including Human, Signals, Measurement and Signature, and Imagery Intelligence (HUMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, and IMINT) and Counterintelligence. Note: Classified details of the FY 2011 OCO request in support of the Army Military Intelligence Program are contained in Volume 1a of the DOD Military Intelligence Program Congressional Justification Book (MIP CJB).

Intelligence Operations and Support. Provides critical intelligence operational support capabilities to support Information Dominance Center (IDC) operations, ensuring deployed forces have real time access to sophisticated analytical and data mining tools. Also supports modification and upgrade of IDC hardware and software and the operationalization of advanced technologies. Provides tactical overwatch to deployed forces, affording engaged combat units 24/7 situational awareness and response to time-sensitive requests for information in direct support of combat forces. Army DOCEX Program provides direct support to combatant commanders, training of Soldiers and joint service personnel preparing to deploy to OIF / OEF, reach-back translation support deployable systems enhancement and tools integration.

Provides Analytic Tools and Technology for Operational Networks; identifies requirements from deployed analytic systems in the field of information technology. Blue Force Tracking provides situational awareness to Tactical HUMINT Teams (THT) through use of the Handheld Digital Reporting Devices, audio communications, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) real time videos, area maps and alert capability to warn Soldiers of threats in the CENTCOM theater of operations. Tactical Battlefield Visualization provides for sustainment of the three-dimensional, color representation of manmade and natural features and terrain. Increases situational awareness and understanding of complex terrain in the form of intelligence presentations and daily products critical for tactical planning and execution of operational missions. Provides support to deployed Human Terrain Teams in OIF/OEF in response to current CENTCOM Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statements. In addition, aids in Improvised Explosive Device detection and prevention and the integration of military forces into Army and coalition force military operations.

Genesis of HTS Program: Defense Science Board?

On 1 February 2007 the Defense Science Board (DSB) released a little noticed report titled 21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors. In the report the DSB recommended that military planners and warfighters explore, prepare/exploit the Human Terrain in which the US military operates. They also suggested that social science groups work closely with US Combatant Commanders. To do this, the DSB suggested a, then, radical approach: tap into the non-kinetic social sciences network for analytical data and marry future findings and applications to the military’s warfighting toolkit. In a piece titled Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience: Dual Use Discipline for Understanding & Managing Complexity and Altering Warfare (non-footnoted version at Cryptome) the author notes the following from the DSB study conducted in the summer of 2006.

“Human, Social, cultural and behavior (HSCB) modeling…pushes the boundaries of DOD’s comfort zone the farthest. However, it is an area that DOD cannot afford to ignore. The DOD needs to become much more familiar with the theories, methods, and models from psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive science, political science and economics in order to be able to identify those with real potential to add value to DOD’s toolkit. Coupling these to quantitative and computational modeling and simulation techniques from mathematics, physics, statistics, operations research, and computer science could lead to powerful new tools that represent complex human and social systems…One promising starting point for the application of HSCB models is to complement the more familiar physical network modeling with human/group behavioral models.

HSCB models are designed to help understand the structure, interconnections, dependencies, behavior, and trends associated with organizational entities. Macro HSCB models address nation states, socio-cultural regions, economies, and political systems. Micro HSCB models deal with religious and ethnic tribes, militias, insurgent and terrorist networks, and military units at the tactical level. Integrated models try to tie together the macro and micro models.

A formidable challenge in modeling social and behavioral phenomena is to integrate and make coherent micro-macro models at multiple levels of data, granularity, and analysis, and across multiple disciplines of the social sciences, and to acquire and structure data that can be used to guide and test the models.”

New Casualties Reported:  Incidents from 2008

“You are missing some people who got wounded.  One US Army Lieutenant was shot in the chest after one month in the field”, said a source. “Three HTS members were riding in an armored vehicle that rolled over after the driver took evasive action. The driver of the vehicle was listening to music on his I-Pod when the incident took place. The vehicle rolled over three times.  As a result, one of the occupants had a broken neck and other serious injuries. Another had broken ribs one of which went through this liver.”

Known HTS casualties now stand at 12 (including HTS hostage released).

* Paula Loyd-killed/died of wounds
* Nicole Suveges–killed
* Michael V. Bhatia–killed
* Lt Brian Brennan–(both legs amputated)
* Wesley Cureton–wounded, status unknown
* Scott Wilson–wounded, status unknown
* D. Ayala–guilty of manslaughter
* A. Salam, Afghani National killed by Ayala
* Issa Salomi–Hostage, released March 2010
* Name Unknown—shot in chest
* Name Unknown—wounded in vehicle rollover
* Name Unknown—wounded in vehicle rollover

JOHN STANTON is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at



John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach him at