6 October 2008. Thanks to John Stanton.
US Armys Human Terrain System: Madness, Mayhem and Troughs of
by John Stanton
*Part III of the Series. Part I is titled
US Armys Human Terrain
System in Disarray. Part II is titled
US Armys Human Terrain
System: From Super Concept to Absolute Farce
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political
in national security matters. His last book was Talking Politics with God
and the Devil in Washington, DC. Reach him at cioran123[at]yahoo.com
Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached
social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues
to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial
life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members
and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices
and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for
this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of
proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater,
destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of
HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.
Gates and Patreaus are also to blame for perpetuating the belief that Irregular
Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare are different from past Guerilla/Unconventional
wars the United States has been involved with, whether fought in urban or
jungle terrain (the singular difference being the globalization of insurgent
As one source put it, After the takeover in the North of Iraq (the
Mosul area) by the Green Beret's with their trained Peshmerga's, they were
kicked out by General Patreaus, who during that time was the 101st Commander.
He did this because it was his Battlespace. Our so called military leaders
are part of the problem. That is why we've been in neck deep in this whole
thing for seven years. Every military commander (Colonels on up to Generals)
that are not Green Beret's are trying to justify their existence in this
Unconventional War. The military has even gone as far as creating terms like
Irregular Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare (re-inventing the wheel). The term
Special Operations Forces in the military is used loosely now because the
military wants everybody to be SPECIAL. Besides, if the Green Beret's were
allowed free reign in this war, what would we do with all the MRAPS,
TANKS,STRYKERS, and all other sorts of junk that we bought for the rest of
the troops that have no business fighting in this type of war? Bottom line
is that our military is still set up to fight a Conventional War.
This is what happens when money and bodies are thrown at an unstructured,
recycled idea to see what happens. HTS Deputy Program Manager
Steve Rotkoff (a 1977 graduate of West Point and a McNeil Technologies employee
who achieved a measure of fame in Bob Woodwards book State of Denial)
who joined the HTS program in August of 2008 confirmed this point in an early
September 2008 email message to HTS personnel, Because this idea is
so vital to our nation, it has grown more quickly than the in-place
administration and structure to support it. That confounded statement is
at the core of the HTS programs woes and, in a larger sense, to the
national and military strategies/tactics currently operational. Indeed, a
case can be made that the idea of the United States of America has grown
too quickly for an administration and structure to support it.
Agents of Chaos
Many in the HTS program predict more deaths will occur because Human Terrain
Team (HTT) members are poorly prepared for an insurgency environment and
no one is providing a risk analysis for deployed members. One source indicated
that a social scientist stationed with the US Marines in Al Anbar is
chasing IEDs while another went out on a shopping adventure
days after arriving in-theater. The social scientist, who has a Masters degree
in communications, boasted in a blog about an escape from danger in Iraq
by speeding recklessly through the streets of Baghdad while blaring music
from a car. Another social scientist commented, we are all islands
doing what we want.
Sources say Fondacaro and McFate-Sapone are not concerned with activity
in-theater and that the measures of effectiveness they use are dubious and
unquantifiable. For example, the 60 percent reduction in kinetic force
in a small village in Afghanistan is hardly quantifiable but is used
to gin up more money for the program. Sources say Fondacaros advice
is this: If there are troubles, be sure to appear as a united front
to the Brigade [Command]. But the reality in-theater is that most,
if not all, of the HTS teams are dysfunctional and fragmented.
The word from Kindergarten Cop Rotkoff at the top was this: I want
to kill rumor mongering and innuendo in this organization. If you think something
is broken bring me clear dispassionate facts with some form of documentation
or evidence and I will fix it. Please discourage people from engaging in
conspiracy theories or personal attacks whenever you encounter them. Do not
engage in playing mom against dad. I will eventually find out that you are
shopping around for the answer you want and it will irritate me greatly.
Yet, multiple sources indicate that problems and solutions brought forward
to HTS management result in firings or reassignments for, as one put it,
not going along with the original idea. Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly
nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described
by HTS personnel as a poisonous individual, the crazy aunt
in the room, and a hustler. One said youve
got to watch your six with her.
Almost a year into the HTT deployment cycle, the HTS program has finally
produced a Human Terrain System Handbook. There is debate, according to sources,
in the HTS program about the basic structure of the HTT teams. Some have
complained that there is no mission-essential tasking listed for the teams.
Should the Human Terrain Team Leader, who has no cultural intelligence of
the area, be the brigade commanders advisor? Or should it be the social
One deployed anthropologist suggested that a social scientist should be the
direct advisor to the Brigade Commander, while another social scientist--who
suggested the same idea and recently returned from theater--is being terminated
for the same view. In correspondence dated September 23, 2008, Mrs. McFate-Sapone
stated that while [the] social scientist did a great job for the Battalion
Im not sure that its a good idea to have someone
on staff who doesnt actually believe in the HTS mission. Yet,
there was a simple disagreement with the HTT structure, not the mission.
Harsher comments were reserved for Fondacaro. Sources likened him to a madman.
He is sending neophytes into theater and they will get killed.
BAE Systems has relinquished control of its employees and leaves them at
the mercy of Fondacaro who is referred to as an idiot and the
worse program manager the US Army has ever seen, said sources. Training
is a waste of time, money and resources, they say. Sources say that both
Michael Bhatia and Nicole Seveges-- HTT social scientists tragically killed
while deployedrarely showed up to training. Program participants in
Bhatias class said they are not even sure what training he attended
or which training cycle he was in. Fondacaro was in a rush to get a
warm body into theater, so Michael was sent in prematurely,
said a source.
Pontius Pilate Approach
BAE Systems employees complain about not having any contact with their
employer while deployed. Thats because Fondacaro is their direct contact.
But his approach is to sweep all issues under the carpet and protect himself
from any fallout from US Army Brigade Command that would cause him embarrassment.
Individuals who complain or offer solutions to improve the program are fired
or ostracized. Fondacaro pushes program troubles onto BAE Systems by saying
the Human Terrain Teams deployed are under the responsibility of the US Army
Brigade Command. Discussions with the media are prohibited unless approved
In the midst of this turmoil, BAE Systems has made a Pontius Pilate economic
decision that the profits to be taken from the HTS funding trough are worth
the daily troubles. According to sources, BAE Systems vice president,
Steve Braun, who oversees the HTS contract, speaks with Fondacaro almost
daily. People working in Fondacaros office at Oyster Point, Virginia,
have heard him yelling and ranting at Braun like a madman. Fondacaro
dictates to BAE Systems whom he wants hired/fired from the HTS program, forcing
them to comply or they risk losing the contract. If Fondacaro wants
to priority-hire a felon or manic depressant, then so be it. The value of
the contract is lucrative enough BAE Systems will provide that service, according
to a program participant.
Contractors looking to make money on the HTS program should beware. According
to a defense industry analyst, Several major defense contractors imagine
that HTS will eventually turn into a technology development program, against
which they can sell elaborate sensor and processing systems. Aside from a
potential use of COMINT (communications intelligence) and social mapping
network software, I really doubt that any major, high-dollar-value programs
will come out of HTS that would be compatible with technology acquisition.
Meanwhile over in Kuwait its late September 2008. HTS teams have been
sent to staging areas in Kuwait. Its hot, nerves are a bit frayed and
there is tension in the air. The last thing that needs to happen is a nightmare
of the logistics type and missteps by program management. The last
thing happens according to sources/internal correspondence.
Morale is very low and continues to drop daily. Many personnel are
staying in Kuwait City at their own expense. Some have even found a hotel
that only charges $150 a day, plus a high tax. Meals are expensive; hence
the high per diem. Personnel now know that
knew about the BAE (Building
48) Letters of Authorization (LOA) SNAFU but kept it to
,with the exception
of your hint of delay to a few. Per HTS management e-mail that we are competing
with 1000s to get our LOAs fixed, and since it is doubtful Continental
United States (CONUS) personnel other than Regional Readiness Command (CRC)
work weekends, its anyones guess how long we will be stuck here.
Personnel know that
used the Thursday we were at CRC to go to an all
day beauty spa and get the works. Hence when personnel needed processing
assistance, no one was available since
to Atlanta. I
momentarily from a distance on Friday, movement day to Freedom
Hall. You can imagine comments that have been made that neither
HTS personnel off. Personnel are asking about returning to CONUS and waiting
for the LOA SNAFU to get fixed. Some have suggested all contractors depart
in mass and return home since their pay has been cut and weekends are not
included while in Kuwait. Even paying for the flight out-of-pocket is cheaper
than living on the economy.
This is a hell of a way to run a program based on an idea that is so vital
to the nation.
Writing in late September 2008, a source had this to say, I was treated
horribly. I have filed a complaint with the inspector general. If they do
not address it, I plan on filing a Congressional.