The HTS Racket: John Stanton’s fourth article on the Human Terrain System

This article was already advertised here, I am merely posting the complete article with the author’s permission to ensure that a copy remains online and available on this blog. During my recent absence, two more articles on the Human Terrain System by John Stanton have also been published, and those will appear in the next posts here.

Previous articles by John Stanton on the Human Terrain System can be found here, here, and here.


06 November, 2008

Cleaning Up US Army/TRADOC’s Human Terrain System (HTS):
Terminate Current Management, Move HTS to Civil Affairs*

by John Stanton

Few remember, or even are aware, that one of the primary functions of HTS was, according to a defense contractor memo, “…ethnographic causes for increased Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) activity in target areas. The concept is a five person team embedded with the Brigade Combat Team but not accompanying the BCT on patrols. The HTS team would stay in the Green Zone and collect information from returning BCT patrols.”

Fewer know that Cultural Operations Research – Human Terrain System (COR-HTS) — now simply HTS — was originally funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Coincidently, JIEDDO was formerly under the command of Steve Fondacaro, who now runs the turbulent HTS program. JIEDDO received a punishing audit by the Government Accountability Office ( The GAO described JIEDDO as an ad hoc organization that did not identify, track or report all contractor personnel, and sorely lacked accounting controls. Those activities appear to commonplace within the HTS program.

The HTS program has descended a long way since then.

The mismanaged transformation/evolution of that HTS concept into a troublesome and dangerous field operation has resulted in internal turmoil at Fort Leavenworth (Building 48) and logistics/deployment SNAFU’s in Kuwait. It has sorely tested civil-military relations in and out of theater. Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

The most tragic result of this is the deaths and injuries that have occurred in the field, the most recent being Paula Loyd of HTT AF-4 Blue.

Loyd, a member of Human Terrain Team (HTT) AF-4 Blue, was severely injured as she was interviewing an Afghani national. Loyd was doused with flammable liquid and set alight. One of her team members managed to submerge her in a nearby water source. Still, Loyd suffered 60 percent burns on her body and is being treated by US Army burn specialists. Reportedly, the team member that was charged with monitoring the movements of the Afghani national was distracted for a moment and the Afghani national took advantage of that lapse to successfully assault Loyd. A distraught HTT member later tracked the Afghani down and shot and killed him. The case is under investigation by the US Army.

A Civil Solution from Fort Bragg

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends. All sources have pointed their collective fingers at these regular’s of the local pub–the High Noon Saloon–as the sources for the program’s travails: Maxie McFarland (DI-SES ,TRADOC HQ G-2), Steve Fondacaro (HTS Program Manager, former Commander of JIEDDO)), Mrs. Montgomery McFate-Sapone (HTS Senior Social Scientist), Steve Rotkoff (HTS Deputy Program Manager). BAE Systems is also receives criticism for being ethically challenged. “They are all milking the program,” said a source.

According to all sources, the HTS program is located in the wrong place with the wrong people. Sources believe that the program should properly be funded and located in Civil Affairs (CA) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — home to USA Special Operations Command (USASOC). They all agree that the current management crew should be terminated and replaced with competent individuals. Some have indicated that “congressional inquiries and legal action” are forthcoming. In a sign of the mutinous atmosphere inside HTS, some believe that “settlements” are being made by management to keep dissenters/whistleblowers quiet.

One source commented that, “the concept of human terrain analysis is an inherently governmental function, an inherently civil affairs function, and not something that should be tainted by association with the intelligence function. It is something that is also diametrically opposite the Clandestine Human Intelligence function (spying for money).”

US Army Major Kevin Burke of CA at Fort Bragg has provided a structured and formalized program to improve on counter insurgency operations in his December 2007 thesis titled Civil Reconnaissance: Separating the Insurgent from the Population. The solid 89-page thesis was written at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California and is available by request from cioran123[at] [Cryptome mirror]. It should be the cornerstone document for cleaning up the HTS program and moving forward.

Major Burke’s thesis suggests the following:

  • Civil Reconnaissance should be kept out of the intelligence function.
  • Civil Reconnaissance requires proper training and competent management.
  • HTS/HTTs should be moved into the Brigade Civil Affairs Planner element.
  • Doctrine must to be developed to explain the relationship between the HTS/HTT and the military. It does not now exist.
  • Standard Operating Procedures need to be developed immediately for data collection, analysis, and storage. USASOC 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, Civil Information Cell may be the proper location for the data.
  • Civil Affairs staff and planners should be the primary generators of missions and suggestions to the Command

Meanwhile: Mutiny on the Bounty

According to sources, the presence of the hot-tempered Steve Rotkoff has only increased tensions within the program. “Rotkoff thinks he is still a Brigade Commander but he is retired from the US Army and is a contractor.” Reportedly contractor Rotkoff wanted sole control over site security functions, specifically the ability to issue badges for entry in and out of the building that houses HTS elements and undoubtedly classified information. This is a function normally associated with the Facility Security Officer (FSO). The FSO, according to sources, filed a complaint up the chain of command about Rotkoff’s actions.

HTS contractors like Rotkoff (McNeil Technologies), BAE Systems, MPRI, Lincoln Group, et al — are bound by the security protocols found in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) issued by the Defense Security Service (DSS). DSS, understaffed and funded, does its absolute level-best to ensure that private contractors operate in accordance with the NISPOM but they can’t be everywhere at once.

Sources also alluded to the ratio of civilian contractors to military personnel in the HTS program. One indicated that there were three civilians (retired military now contractors, etc.) for every one active duty military person, reservist or otherwise. “It’s a military program but the military does not control it,” said one. As such, the HTS program seems representative of a US military that continues to privatize/outsource the protection and defense of the United States Constitution to those whose allegiance is to their contractor’s balance sheet.

One source indicated that there are more HTS troubles inside Iraq. “One team placed at the Division level may be sent home…Another social scientist is being removed from theater with a possible termination for no apparent reason and no due process. That’s usually a prelude to being fired. Traci St. Benoit, the first social scientist to be sent out to Afghanistan, apparently has been dropped from the program. Three HTS contractors were wounded in Mosul when the MRAP they were in rolled over. Other social scientists are complaining about how this program is becoming militarized.”

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”


*Part IV of the Series. Part I is titled US Army’s Human Terrain System in Disarray. Part II is titled US Army’s Human Terrain System: From Super Concept to Absolute Farce. Part III is titled US Army’s Human Terrain System: Madness, Mayhem and Troughs of Cash… 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]

2 thoughts on “The HTS Racket: John Stanton’s fourth article on the Human Terrain System

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