Wired’s Danger Room blog has a short news item reporting that the co-founder and leader of the Human Terrain System, the US Army’s teams of battlefield social scientists, is no longer in post and has presumably been fired.
The HTS has been a controversial innovation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and aims to understand the culture in which the conflict takes place to give the military a strategic advantage. Civilian social scientists have criticised the project as violating the ‘do no harm’ principal and branding the members ‘weaponised anthropologists’.
Colonel Steve Fondacaro co-created the military project and pushed it to prominence in the military who are increasingly relying on human intelligence to fight an insurgent-led conflict.
No specific details have been given for why Fondacaro is no longer leading the project but the article does provide a potted history of the Human Terrain System’s colourful history to the present time.
At last count, there were 21 Human Terrain Teams operating in Iraq and six more in Afghanistan, offering advice to commanders on the local cultural landscape.
There was a sense of perpetual chaos swirling around HTS, however. The program came under assault from nearly every angle: the quality of the Human Terrain ‚Äúexperts,‚Äù the depth of its training, the utility to infantry leaders, the competency of its managers, the exposure of civilian researchers to hostile environments, the ethics of turning social science into military intelligence.
Dozens left the program, disgruntled. Three social scientists were killed in action. One Human Terrain employee pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Another was charged with spying. A third was taken hostage in Iraq.
Link to Danger Room piece ‘Human Terrain Chief Ousted’