Latest News on the Human Terrain System: No Longer Private Contractors

Thanks to John Stanton for the latest installment in his coverage of the Human Terrain System (HTS). The latest news relates to the impact of the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraq, which was also discussed in a previous post on this blog (Curtains already? The Human Terrain System heads to a close in Iraq, but “revives” in other ways at home).

John Stanton’s earlier articles are available here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. His latest article, also published in Pravda, is reproduced here with the writer’s permission.

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US Government Takeover of Human Terrain System

HTS Program Managers Spared, Laugh On Way to Bank

by John Stanton

“I will bet that there is more to this than SOFA issue! It would be interesting to know the true reason this has happened. I can imagine that there are some unhappy campers in the program now.”

On February 9, 2009, Human Terrain System (HTS) program manager Steve Fondacaro informed HTS employees that they were being converted to Term Government Employees. The catalyst for the drastic change was, according to Fondacaro, the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi Government. Yet, sources believe there is something fishy about the SOFA cover, particularly since their treatment by HTS program management (Steve Fondacaro, Steve Rotkoff-Deputy Program Manager, and Montgomery McFate-Sapone-Senior Social Scientist) over the past year has been anything but stellar. Further, BAE SYSTEMS was not notified by HTS program management but, according to sources, by HTS employees who had gotten word of the changes afoot through the HTS grapevine.

“Steve Fondacaro gave a brief stating that all contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are being required to convert to Term Government employees and must sign paperwork to convert by 18 February or get out of the program. Neither the prime BAE SYSTEMS nor any subs knew anything about this until employees starting flooding their company emails. Fondacaro’s brief states that these changes are necessary as a result of the Iraqi Security Agreement. It also states that if you have 90 days or more left on your contract, you either convert or essentially you are giving your two week’s notice.

“BAE SYSTEMS and the primes are scrambling right now to get to the bottom of what this is about since they were clueless until employees starting burning up the phone lines and email. Most of the employees are worried because if they are forced to covert (alternative is to quit) so really no choice, that they are not tied to their contractor but at the mercy of the TRADOC and they essentially become non-permanent government army employees.”

Here is the BAE SYSTEMS Memo to Employees.

TO: BAE SYSTEMS Human Terrain Systems Employees, BAE SYSTEMS HTS Subcontractors and Subcontractor Employees. FROM: David Zacharias, BAE SYSTEMS HTS Project Manager DATE: 9 February 2009. SUBJECT: Human Terrain System Government Term Hire Action

At 0800 hours today we began hearing plans of the US government to convert employees to government positions within the US government system of employment. As of this date, we have received no official notice from the US government as to any changes on the HTS contract. Until otherwise notified by the US government, BAE Systems has in force a Foreign Service Agreement and letters of employment with each employee. Until we receive notice from the US government of any changes in the contract requirements, you will continue to be employees of BAE Systems or one of its subcontractors. Your current rates of pay, benefits and related issues are valid and in force. Upon official receipt of documentation from the US government, we will inform you of any changes in your current employment status. HTS Subcontractors with FSA letters, letters of employment and benefits packages should have all agreements in effect until notified by the US government or BAE Systems as the prime contractor.”

Program Management Smells Funny

Sources report an almost mutinous atmosphere within HTS. “What are Fondacaro and McFate up to with this latest move? This does not in any way affect McFate and Fondacaro because they are already government employees. It does not affect Rotkoff or anyone else at Headquarters because they are employees of a company called McNeil. We are receiving none of what was promised and we have 48 hours to make a decision or we are fired!!! We all feel that there was some sort of shortfall somewhere in the money area. It always goes back to the green. No one will tell us why the federal government is taking over the positions from BAE. Worse still, BAE is [apparently] not even fighting the contract takeover. Do you smell something funny? We are being asked to do these dangerous jobs and put our lives on the line and get no compensation in return. Fondacaro will not answer any questions. It is either do as he says or leave the program. Fondacaro is pushing this off onto the Federal Government. But you can look at money that is saved already by making this move with the budget they program management now operates on. We are being told absolutely NOTHING!!!”

“As of 8:00AM Monday morning, 9 February, the US federal government made a move to make all Human Terrain Team jobs federal positions. BAE was never notified in advance and received notification at about the same time as employees. This is a major pay cut [for us] and you would not believe how much. I was making six figures (USD) with the opportunity to make much more when I got to Iraq. Now I drop to five figures and with my cap as a government employee I will not make much more. But a social scientist with absolutely no experience will still be making the six figure amount! We will now all be labeled as Intelligence Analysts and that includes analysts, research managers, social scientists and team leaders. Many of us can’t afford to quit because of financial obligations. Social Scientists in the program are torn now because they can’t take a position that says Intelligence Analyst as a job description.”

In other news, sources reported that in Afghanistan, a vehicle carrying HTT members hit an IED. Fortunately, the result was a flat tire and no injuries.


John Stanton is a Virginia-based writer specializing in national security and political matters. Reach him at cioran123[at]

12 thoughts on “Latest News on the Human Terrain System: No Longer Private Contractors

  1. Maximilian Forte

    So what does this really mean for HTS?

    Does it undermine HTS if social scientists do not wish to be employed under the changed circumstances?

    Are they worried that “intelligence analyst” will be the label on their work record?

    Then there is this strange, contradictory statement above:

    “This is a major pay cut [for us] and you would not believe how much. I was making six figures (USD) with the opportunity to make much more when I got to Iraq. Now I drop to five figures and with my cap as a government employee I will not make much more. But a social scientist with absolutely no experience will still be making the six figure amount!”

    So who is the speaker here, if not a social scientist? And does it not suggest that social scientists will continue to get paid a great deal? It is very unclear.

  2. httmember

    What is meant is this ,each position has been given a grade gg13 for research managers. Team leaders and social scientist gg-15. gg-13 went from 150, 80,000.(usd) social scientist went from 250,000 to 117,000. The potential pay when in country in USD was 350,000 -400,000. USD. Social Scientist who were in this program are complaining, I heard it today, that they are not going to get a job when done with HTT because they cannot put on a resume they worked for the us govt as an intelligence analyst.
    I heard today that one social scientist said it implies she is a spy. Mind you None of the higher ups are touched by any of this. To include McFake who still rakes in 400, including all her speaking engagements. People have quit left and right over there now. The money offered is NOT worth the risk.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Many thanks httmember, that adds some further clarity to the issue.

      Having worked through at least one of my own contradictions, I can say that I have to agree: that money is not worth the risk at all.

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  4. Former HTS Social Scientist

    Two important issues must be discussed.

    First, to John Stanton, I wonder if you realize that Pravda has been the mouthpeice of the Bolsheviks since before the Revolution in 1912. Everything you publish there is used to undermine US interests in the information battlespace and I question your motives.

    Second, in response to httmember, your statement that the “money offered is not worth the risk” implies that there is indeed a pricetag on your life. The risk was worth it when you were making big money, but now that the money has been taken away from you, your intentions become very clear. This applies to everyone else whining about the money, too. There are plenty of US marines and soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for much less than what you’re making as a GG-13, and taking much higher risks. The mismanagement of this program revolved around, in my humble opinion as an HTT member for about a year, the contractor management of BAE Systems and all its sub-contractors. This program has great potential to not only assist combat troops in hostile zones, but also a conflict mitigation tool for informing future US national security policy. Those ideals and goals should be what’s driving you to participate in this mission in the first place. If money is really the only issue, then good riddance. The United States of America, her warfighters and taxpayers deserve better.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      “Former HTS Social Scientist,” if I may intervene in the meantime (I don’t know if John Stanton will respond or not, but I’ll let him know of the message). Without jeopardizing your confidentiality, or betraying your own identity, are you able to speak about why you are a “former” HTS employee? Was it merely the end of a contract, or were there other reasons?

  5. Former HTS Social Scientist


    Yes, I will speak to that.

    First, again to Mr. Stanton, I would like to clarify my previous message. You are essentially what’s known as an ‘access agent.’ You are taking official government documents and communications, leaked by traitors inside the Human Terrain System, and feeding them directly to a foreign government and the rest of the world via Pravda. I hope that you do not continue to publish such information.

    Second, the Anthropological Association of America has every right to be concerned about HTS. Anthropology exists in order to advance its Theory within the ethical framework established by its professional organizations. To demonize HTS critics because of their concern for what appears to be an abuse of the discipline and for jeopardizing all American anthropologists around the world is something for which the HTS leadership should be held accountable. But the HTS program is not anthropology; it is the pursuit of national interest by utilizing the social sciences, including the anthropological technique. The program could have avoided much of the current criticism if they simply cast this program as a US government tool intended to assist combat operations. Instead, they went hat-in-hand to organizations such as the AAA (who even cares about them, anyways?), seeking recruits and approval. This was a recipe for disaster.

    Since the government has ‘nationalized’ the HTS program (excellent verbiage, by the way), maybe there will finally be some accountability in the way the program recruits, deploys teams (for example, enforcing fitness standards), and operates overseas. This decision was one I actually respected of Mr. Fondacaro; a man who’s clearly mission-orientated. Also, there is also absolutely no reason to think that because HTS employees are now in temporary government positions that social scientists have to put ‘intelligence analyst’ on their resumes. That is absurd – they’re still social scientists. That’s just more whining about the money. Of course, where the program leadership failed the taxpayer to begin with is that they SHOULD be considered intelligence analysts! They are highly qualified intelligence analysts like the numerous PhD eggheads in the Intelligence Community; they’re informing military decisionmakers about the disposition of the battlespace. What is wrong with being an intelligence analyst or collector? It’s only wrong if HTS members masquerade as Anthropologists inside the same myopic framework as those studying the mating rituals of the peoples of Papua New Guinea, when in fact they’re studying local populations to increase the effectiveness of our counterinsurgency operations. Guess what? American taxpayers demand that their warfighters have every advantage possible – this mission is supposed to be for that purpose. The debate about the ethics of this program is moot if HTS leadership would stand up and say, “We are not Anthropology.”

    This is necessary work, and if “other” organizations did their jobs in the first place (as they were mandated by the 1947 National Security Act), the Department of Defense wouldn’t have been required to fund the program this late in the game.

    I left HTS because it’s a loser. But it doesn’t have to be. To the HTS leadership, stop blaming public affairs and greedy employees about your woes (although to be fair both could use improvement). As the father of American public diplomacy Edward Murrow stated, “Skilled propagation of poor policy would merely intensify error “. Think strategically! Develop an organic counterintelligence function that protects the customer from enemies both ‘foreign’ (after all you do provide a direct pipeline into the military decisionmaking process), and ‘domestic’ (leaks), reframe the program in a manner that reflects reality and avoids unnecessary confrontation with an inconsequential group of professionals, and get the job done for us all. The battle is on all over the world, and US foreign policymakers need you to bring your best to the fight.

  6. John Stanton

    HTS is a recycled concept, belongs in SOCOM/CA, and completely ignores evolutionary cognitive neuroscience. I’ve clearly stated that in the 14 articles on HTS and I’ve suggested, with the help of a Major from Fort Bragg, suggested one solution. Another suggestion offered was for the military to adopt Community Policing as practiced in major urban centers in the USA. As Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

    Wait…I thought Pravda Vodka owned Pravda! Just kidding…

    Ahhhhhh, the “better dead than red” mindset still exists! Haven’t heard that in a long time. I’m tempted to duck and cover! I’m wondering if HTTmember knows about the BRIC’s (all suffering economically now) and the many vested interests the US has in/with Russia, and for that matter China. For example, this group A trip to the Foreign Agent (lobbyist database) would undoubtedly reveal former members of congress who lobby for US business in Russia.

    And better not fill your gas tank at Lukoil–they own 2000 gas stations on the Eastern US seaboard.

    And almost forgot to mention that the platform for the Sea Based X-Band radar was made in….Russia by Vyborg shipping. Prime on the SBXB was Boeing. Whoops!!!!

    I wrote some pieces on these matters a couple of year’s ago.

    The world has changed since HTTmember last took a hard look at it.

  7. httmember

    to HTS Social Scientist, HTT is a loser now, since there will be no one left to fill teams. Lastest headcount shows some teams will only have one member. I laugh to myself when I hear the pious words of those who say this is about more than money. First and foremeost it IS about money and risk and our families back home. As a term employee the “GG” would indicate to those who have been fed. employees comes with some sort of benefit, Health ins., Life ins., job security. No such luck. TRADDOC will use and abuse those over there and going and throw to the curb when finished. With Fondecaro getting the acolades as some big defender. My whole “beef” with how this takeover was handled is at the 11th hour we are told to sign or walk. WE were not even afforded accurate information. We as participants were treated with total disrespect. So my final point, How can you respect a mission when those “in charge” don’t respect the missionaries. Why would you walk into a hornets nest blindly with NO SUPPORT. Oh and before I forget, your comment about respecting Fondecaro, I am just glad I hadn’t eaten my breakfast before reading!

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