Is There A Better Home For The Army's Human Terrain System
Air Command And Staff College Maxwell Air Force Base United States
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The future of HTS is unclear, writes Roberto J. Gonzalez, Associate Professor of Anthropology at San Jose State University and staunch critic of the United States Armys Human Terrain System HTS.1 With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to a close and military budgets projected to tighten significantly over the next decade, the professors statement couldnt be more timely and relevant. Initiated in 2006 as a quickly developed capability to fix the militarys admitted lack of sociocultural knowledge about the peoples and regions in which it was deployed, the HTS program quickly became hailed as a vital, and emphatically non-lethal, tool in counterinsurgency operations by some while likewise being decried as a wrongful use of social science by others. The former HTS director and recently retired Army Colonel, Steve Fondacaro, and the programs former Senior Social Scientist, Dr. Montgomery McFate, coauthored an article published in the journal PRISM in which they recounted their experiences while establishing HTS and acknowledged that despite the positive reception by the deployed military units, HTS was controversial with certain elements of the defense intelligence community and with some academics.2 Criticism and support comes from a seemingly widespread audience, but the impetus behind the controversy tends to coalesce around questions of whether social science is morally compatible with military objectives, if it really provides an alternative in military discourse truly void from the threat of coercion and targeting of civilians, and if the insertion of academics into the battle space ultimately serves to help or hinder the military effort. Given present controversy and the benefit of hindsight to reflect on nearly six years of HTS successes and failures, the uncertainty surrounding the future of HTS and its affiliation with the military must be addressed. The ensuing discussion focuses on providing a potential solution.