Assessing the effectiveness of the US military's Human Terrain System
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Briefed to the Defense Department in 2005, the Human Terrain System (HTS) was the Pentagon's response to military commanders' complaints that a dearth of cultural knowledge was hamstringing their ability to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations. Designed to provide deep cultural expertise to units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Human Terrain System fielded its first Human Terrain Team (HTT) in 2007 to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno, Afghanistan. This team impressed Brigade Commander, Colonel (COL) Martin Schweitzer who testified before the House Armed Services Committee that the team's work helped reduce kinetic operations by 60-70%, expel a Taliban shadow government, and detain 32 foreign fighters. Instead of widespread adulations, HTS soon became the subject of intense scrutiny by the Network of Concerned Anthropologists (NCA), the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and others in the academic community who lambasted the program's incompatibility with the AAA's ethical guidelines. Programmatic flaws quickly surfaced as well, as former HTT members and a handful of investigative journalists exposed a program plagued by poor management and staffed by an unqualified and ill-prepared cadre of civilian social scientists. Yet, in contravention to widespread ethical and programmatic criticisms, the current HTS website optimistically presages the program's expansion even in light of a congressionally-mandated FY11 funding freeze. While the Human Terrain System may not be destined for retirement any time soon, its value as a vehicle for delivering deep cultural expertise to deployed military units remains in doubt due to the program's failure to recruit and retain top talent, enforce quality control standards on HTT products, distinguish the HTT mission from intelligence collection, and adequately articulate a vision for life beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
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