US Congress Requests Assessment of Army's Human Terrain System
Independent Assessment Due from SECDEF by March 2010
by John Stanton
“I shall never use the degrading term, human terrain. It is a scandalous tribute to the dumbing-down of America that earth science could be confused with human culture. These people are a laughable embarrassment to this Republic. “
“Sticking it to those bastards is an important task indeed!”
“I don't see how they can sustain the HTS given all the problems and especially if there are reduced numbers of troops going to AFG.” .
In Los Angeles, a play has been written and is to be read (October-December timeframe). The title of the production is titled Anthropology--Or How to Win Friends and Influence Afghans. That story is based, in part, on the US Army’s Human Terrain System. To date, the HTS has been a study in tragedy and comedy. One can only hope that there has been some sort of improvement.
In Washington, DC, at long last, the House Armed Services Committee has included in the National Defense Authorization Act, FY2010 (H.R. 2647) a requirement that the US Secretary of Defense conduct an independent evaluation of the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). HASC is currently in committee with its counterpart in the US Senate, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).
This is a positive development; that is, if the “assessment” is conducted by personnel truly “independent” of US Army G-2, TRADOC, FMSO and the powerful CENTCOM Commanding General, David Petraeus, who is the program’s biggest supporter.
The specific language for the analysis of HTS is located in Title II—Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Overview and is titled “ Independent Assessment of the Human Terrain System.”
Quoting directly from HR 2647, “The committee continues to support the concept behind the Human Terrain Teams (HTT) and the overall Human Terrain System (HTS). In the committee report (H. Rept. 110–652) accompanying the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the committee expressed support for expansion of the HTT concept, including to other combatant command areas of responsibility.
The committee is aware of anecdotal evidence indicating the benefits of the program supporting operations in the Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The committee also notes that a number of press accounts provide anecdotal evidence indicating problems with management and resourcing.
Seven Areas of Interest
The committee finds it difficult to evaluate either set of information in the absence of reliable, empirical data. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct an independent assessment of the Human Terrain System, and submit to the congressional defense committees a report detailing that assessment by March 1, 2010. The independent assessment should consider the following elements:
(1) An overview of all of the components of HTS, including related technology development efforts;
(2) The adequacy of the management structure for HTS;
(3) The metrics used to evaluate each of the components of HTS;
(4) The adequacy of human resourcing and recruiting efforts, including the implications of converting some contractor positions to government positions;
(5) An identification of skills that are not resident in government or military positions, and how the Army can leverage academic networks or contracting opportunities to fill those gaps;
(6) An identification of policy or regulatory issues hindering program execution; and
(7) The potential to integrate HTS capabilities into existing exercises.”
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security and political matters. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book on the US Army Human Terrain System –General David Petraeus’ Favorite Mushroom is available here: http://wisemanpublishing.com/page1.php