The Inglorious Fall of Human Terrain Systems

Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the NATO training CG, seeks cash for the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) while the Pentagon and its assorted think tanks spend cash seeking answers/lessons learned from the failure of HTS 1.0. There’s talk of institutionalizing HTS. What gives?

Lieutenant General William Caldwell is a long time supporter of HTS 1.0. While he was directing the Combined Arms Center, he lived next door to one of the key players in HTS 1.0, Ms Karen Clark. HTS was the subject matter of neighborly conversations between the two and Ms Clark apparently did a fine job of convincing the General that HTS is the answer to the US Army’s cultural ignorance.

Still, who wants to read anything more about the US Army/TRADOC HTS?  All the old HTS 1.0 hands responsible for the rise and fall of the initial attempt have left and, thankfully, a new team led by US Army Colonel Sharon Hamilton, is at the controls.  Former senior social scientist Montgomery McFate has moved to the US Naval War College and holds the Minerva Chair there. Former program manager Steve Fondacaro is rumored to be at the National Defense University.  General Martin Dempsey, former TRADOC CG from December 2008 to April 2011?the height of troubles for HTS program/personnel–is the US Army Chief of Staff and now President’s Obama’s nominee to be the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the fallout from the inglorious fall of HTS 1.0 continues on.  The Institute for Defense Analysis has been charged to perform an in-depth study to “institutionalize” HTS. It appears someone in the Pentagon, or in Congress, was not pleased with the Center for Naval Analyses congressionally mandated assessment completed earlier in 2011. That report was located on the DTIC website and then, once publicized, was removed in quick order. Given the time constraints and uncooperative staff in US Army TRADOC and G-2, the Center for Naval Analyses did a good job.

There is an internal US Army investigative report and related documentation that remains classified for the moment. Upon reading the complete HTS 1.0 file, the new CG of TRADOC, General Cone, was said to have felt that “there was more to the story.”

Some say the training regimen is unrealistic with one commenting that “HTS training has moved in to infect the Female Engagement Teams.”

Other elements of the DOD– OSD/I, Joint Staff, NDU, DSB?have or are burning up brain cells, and cash, trying to figure out why HTS 1.0 was home to such malfeasance, high casualty rates, and wildly inconsistent performance.  Why the obsession?

At any rate, this post recently appeared on Talk Radio News: Caldwell Fears Cuts To Human Terrain Teams in Afghanistan by Eric Rice.

“Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, Commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, touted Human Terrain Teams (HTT) in an interview following his address at the Brookings Institution on Monday?.Although calls to reduce the deficit have resulted in a Pentagon-wide examination of military spending, Caldwell also said that the worst case scenario in Afghanistan would be if the HTT budget is cut back. ‘I would be the first person to take more teams,’ ” he said.

It is not exactly clear from Caldwell’s statement what the HTS is doing in Afghanistan. Are the HTT’s now assessing who in the Taliban/other tribal regions are likely to become impersonators of the Afghan police forces and murder Afghan/NATO forces? Where does culture fit in here?

Caldwell said this,” The spate of assassinations of political leaders in Afghanistan in recent months has put the vetting process for Afghani security personnel in the spotlight. General Caldwell emphasized the importance of conversion and impersonation of security forces by the Taliban, rather than infiltration of the forces. This is precisely where the General said HTT has been most useful, as the interface between Taliban and security forces is unintelligible, unpoliceable and uncontrollable without a thorough understanding of the nuances of the cultural backdrop.”

John Stanton writes on national security matters. He can be reached at cioran123@yahoo.com.

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John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach him at captainkong22@gmail.com

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