New report on Human Terrain Systems (HTS)

A new report on the Human Terrain System (HTS) appears in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin for Oct-Dec 2011.

Readers might be interested in what the military sees HTS doing and how that relates to geography:

Structural analysis. Used to gain an understanding
of structures, systems and processes underlying
the people, organizations and capabilities
within an area of operations. Structural analysis
may also include geospatial analysis, which
is used to analyze the spatial and geographicalpatterns of people, organizations, capabilities,
and events in space and time.
 Cultural domain analysis. Used to develop an
understanding of norms, standards, and commonly
held beliefs of people and organizations.
 Text analysis. Used to identify and then confi
rm patterns or themes from written and verbal
 Quantitative analysis. Used to analyze large
amounts of complex, numerical data.
 Mixed Method analysis. Used to analyze a variety
of data.

[Update: Interestingly they acknowledge the critiques of HTS:

The concept of social science support to the military in a combat theater has received mixed reviews. The social science community criticized HTS for  potentially sacrifi cing social science ethics in order  to properly support the military commanders. This was not the case. It did, however, highlight the need to constantly update and expand the rigor HTS places on its employees concerning ethics. It also highlighted the need to clearly differentiate the HTS methodology and ethics concerning social science research for non-lethal activities. Critique of HTS by some in the academic community has been productive in that we have channeled this into a state of the art review process. The internal process is founded in social science ethical processes and sets clear standards for oversight and review of all projects. It provided confi dence to the team members that what they are doing is consistent with conventional professional ethical standards. Indeed, nothing else could be more important to the success of the HTS mission since we are the ones to advise our units about the sensitivities, mores and morals of the local population. To undermine these is to undermine the governance and stability we hope to create for the good of all. (p. 19)

Via Steve Aftergood/FAS


One response to “New report on Human Terrain Systems (HTS)

  1. Sojourner Truth

    The more important questions are, exactly what relevant sociocultural research is provided to the Brigade Combat Team Commander and his staff, what recognized research methodology was used to collect and analyze this information, and how was it used by the commander and his staff to facilitate their operations? You are not likely to get the answers to any of these questions, because it is common knowledge, that the HTS program is a cash cow for military contractors, a sanctuary for mediocre senior officers and NCO’s too dangerous to allow around real soldiers, and easy money for second and third tier faux academics. If the AAA rejects HTS “research” because of ethical considerations, this would be only one of many justifiable reasons to do so. No BCT commander dares tell the truth about the utility of these teams, often poorly led, poorly trained, and characterized by internal strife. The HTS training curriculum, which has undergone numerous revisions, is developed by people with absolutely no experience or training in adult education or curriculum development, and no experience in Afghanistan. It is poorly organized, not properly vetted by research professionals, and merely represents roughly paraphrased extracts torn from dated textbooks, and placed on PowerPoint slides. Because the HTS leadership has managed to convince gullible key leaders of the value of HTS with absolutely no emphirical evidence, HTS will have to die a slow death like many of the “good idea fairy” programs that sprang up as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The idea of expanding HTS teams to each one of the Combatant Commands, or to allied services, is a pipe dream. COCOMS would be better served with a staff of linguists and regional subject matter experts, and the overhead expense of supporting HTS teams make their costs prohibitive.

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