Mapping the Terrain of War Corporatism: The Human Terrain System within the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex

UPDATED: 03 March 2010; 17 March 2010; 19 March 2010; 22 March 2010; 26 April 2010; 03 June 2010; 05 June 2010; 30 November 2010; 10 June 2011; 30 September 2011; 03 March 2013

At least 37 corporations have vested interests, through contracts gained, in supporting the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) in particular, and in the development of “human terrain” capabilities across various branches of the Army apart from HTS (see for example: “The Pentagon’s “Other” Human Terrain System?“). Most of the newspaper coverage of HTS has focused almost exclusively on the role of BAE Systems, and the claimed “nationalization” of HTS1 (turning HTS employees into government workers, specifically labeled “intelligence analysts”) has not meant either the decline or disappearance of private contracting. Recruitment, training, and the design and equipping of technology used by HTS, and other human terrain branches in the Army, are all in the hands of private contractors. Several HTS employees have been, or continue to be, also employees of these corporations. There is considerable overlap and movement of senior personnel between several of these corporations and HTS in particular. Some of these individuals know each other from past work conducted for some of these private contractors.

Any suggestion that HTS is not about supporting war, and separate from the military-industrial complex and corporate war-profiteering, is at the very least naïve or disingenuous. As soon as corporations become such a significant part of the picture, arguments about “saving lives,” “peace keeping,” and “cultural sensitivity” become, at the very best, secondary concerns. The main concern for any corporation is the accumulation of capital. The main concern for any war corporatist is the accumulation of capital derived from engagement in warfare – the main drive is to maintain the war that produces the contracts that generate revenue and growth. HTS is thus very much part of the neoliberal economy of warfare, and academics are recruited – regardless of whatever they believe were the reasons for their recruitment – in order to support imperial warfare and thus to expand the profits of empire. Indeed, it would seem that several of the more outspoken HTS recruits from academia have been extremely naïve in their representations of the nature and purpose of their work – either naïve, or consciously duplicitous and cynical.

It should also be noted that several of these corporations (Lincoln) have been found to have roles in planting propaganda in foreign newspapers, which later fed back into U.S. domestic media coverage of foreign wars, and have performed roles in domestic spying (BAE Systems, Science Applications International Corporation [SAIC], MZM Inc.) and building domestic “counterterrorism” and “homeland security” capabilities (ManTech, and others). What is thus also being constructed, with the aid of HTS as pretext and justification, is the further development of repressive technologies aimed at the U.S. public. This is part of the blowback of empire against democracy at home.

HTS spokespersons have stressed that HTS does not do “intelligence” work, and nor do they support better targeted killing. With respect to the intelligence issue, usually we are faced with conflicting definitions of “intelligence” and some human terrain proponents do in fact speak of “ethnographic intelligence” and “cultural intelligence.”2 The point is that some of these companies are in fact primarily interested in intelligence work, according to their own terms. Booz Allen Hamilton explicitly seeks people who have extensive experience in the U.S. “intelligence community,” to train HTS recruits. The Walsingham Group is simultaneously engaged in “Human Factors & Human Social Cultural Behavioral Programs” and “Intelligence, CI/HUMINT, SOF & Irregular Warfare Support”, mixing interests with a Special Ops background, and support for Homeland Security. HTS contractors certainly have a “dark side” that the promotional propaganda for the human terrain doctrine obscures. Some are explicit that their technology, such as Ascend’s Tactical Ground Reporting device, is intended to “increase combat effectiveness.” One of the contractors, CACI, was at the heart of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. In Iraq, the Wexford Group, now owned by CACI, was directly involved in supporting the targeted killing of people suspected of laying IEDs, supporting what were called “small kill teams” (note also HTS’ origins in the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defense Organization, JIEDDO). SCIA has also developed maps explicitly for the purpose of pinpointing the presence of “insurgents” or “bad guys” based on recorded behavior patterns.

Some of the companies also seem perfectly innocuous, lacking a profile or mission that is primarily military or intelligence-oriented. Some also lack more than very superficial websites that do little beyond providing a generic commercial image, a name, and maybe contact information – with nothing indicated about clients or contracts, or even who are the main officers of the company. Not all of the companies are American – at least two, MTC Technologies and CGI, are Canadian companies. Another of the companies is owned by American Indians.

Especially interesting are the several cases of clear overlaps between the companies’ personnel and consultants. For example, one will find overlaps between Georgia Tech, Aptima, and Mitre, in the figure of Eduardo Salas. Kari Kelton of Aptima also served HTS.3 HTS’ Steve Rotkoff is also tied to McNeil Technologies. Strong links tie Glevum Associates, the Lincoln Group, and HTS, to the extent that their senior personnel seem to be triplicated across all three: HTS’ Milan Sturgis, at the heart of a sexual harassment scandal,4 works as a consultant for Glevum; Alicia Boyd and Laurie Adler, both formerly with Lincoln, moved into HTS, and now Adler has moved into Glevum (for more on Adler see here and here). Daniel Wolfe, IT Director for HTS is closely tied to both Glevum and USI. Charlie King worked for both HTS and Wexford – CACI.5 We also learn that STI, a contractor for HTS, was owned by Blackwater, the mercenary corporation now called Xe. In addition, HTS’ Audrey Roberts, who we know from her glowing sales articles about HTS in the Journal of International Peace Operations (see here and here), has also served as a Research Associate for the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) and Assistant Editor of its journal (JIPO) — the point being that IPOA is an association of private military corporations, including the likes of Blackwater.

1 DeYoung, Karen. (2009). U.S. moves to replace contractors in Iraq: Blackwater losing security role; other jobs being converted to public sector. The Washington Post, March 17, A07

2 Renzi, Fred, Lieutenant Colonel. (2006). Networds: Terra Incognita and the Case for Ethnographic Intelligence. Military Review, Sept-Oct. writing%2Fvolumes%2 Fvolume4%2Fdecember_ 2006%2F12_06_1.; Delp, Benjamin T. (2008). Ethnographic Intelligence (ETHINT) and Cultural Intelligence (CULINT): Employing under-utilized strategic intelligence gathering disciplines for more effective diplomatic and military planning. IIIA Technical Paper 08-02. Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance, James Madison University, April.; Flynn, Michael T., Major General; Captain Matt Pottinger; and, Paul D. Batchelor. (2010). Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. Center for a New American Security, January.; Naquin, Doug. (2007). Remarks by Doug Naquin, Director, Open Source Center. CIRA Newsletter, 32 (4) Winter.; see also a growing list of papers and reports that tie HTS to intelligence work, understood on the many different levels of “intelligence”:




● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Research for this report was done in part with the aid of references from the writings of John Stanton and Roberto J. González, as well as additional independent research. Further updates were produced with the assistance of Benjamin Hirschfield and Roberto J. González.

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

First, this is the complete list of companies compiled to date:

(1) Alpha Ten Technologies, Inc.
(2) Aptima, Inc.
(3) Archimedes
(4) Ascend Intelligence (General Dynamics C4 Systems)
(5) BAE Systems
(6) Booz Allen Hamilton
(7) Careerstone Group
(8) Connecting Cultures
(9) Echota Technologies Corporation
(10) Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation
(11) Glevum Associates
(12) K3 Enterprises
(13) Lincoln Group
(14) MASY Group
(15) McNeil Technologies
(16) MITRE
(17) Monitor 360
(18) MTC Technologies
(19) MZM, Inc.
(20) NEK Advanced Securities Group, Inc.
(21) Northrop Grumman Corporation
(22) Overwatch Systems
(23) RAND Corporation
(24) RTI International
(25) SAIC
(26) SCIA Solutions LLC
(27) Sensor Technologies (ManTech International Corporation)
(28) USI Inc.
(29) Wexford Group – CACI
(30) CLI Solutions
(31) Walsingham Group
(32) Integrated Training Solutions
(33) i2 and ESRI
(34) DevelopMental Labs Inc. (DMLI)
(35) Lockheed Martin
(36) CGI


23 thoughts on “Mapping the Terrain of War Corporatism: The Human Terrain System within the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex

  1. Very important analysis max. In particular I found the paragraph connecting war to the motion of capital and it’s accumulation, and hence the base ideology of hts, no matter what some believe about thier own good intentions, to be a mechanism of imperial domination and extension, most warranted. No matter the numerous discussions persons have on your blog about hts this relationship to a logic of neocolonialism is for me the truth behind the matter.

    Only a quick comment as I’m out and about.

    Thanks for the illumination as always.


  2. “Any suggestion that HTS is not about supporting war, and separate from the military-industrial complex and corporate war-profiteering, is at the very least naïve or disingenuous.”

    I have heard the arguments that HTS is not really about supporting war, etc, and they ring pretty hollow. It IS for war, and it is about using anthropologically influenced methods to get information, target populations, and further a war effort. By association, that creates problems for anyone who appears to be doing the same thing. Thanks for this post Max–and thanks for always keeping me updated about these issues. I still think these discussions should a A LOT more prevalent among anthropologists.

    An ironic and troubling issue came up in Price’s article a couple of weeks ago–the fact that the military might just skip a whole step and start training their own “anthropologists.” This is something that I have wondered about. Either they do that, or they drop the terms “anthropology” and “social science” and just keep using the methods. Whose to stop them?

  3. Wow. Seriously impressive stuff Max.Having been to Troy and having made it back back home I thought I would give you some sage advice from my time at sea. :)

    1) The U.S. military honed by war, is at its finest apogee in terms of intelligent dedicated people.,
    2) The risk adverse culture of that same military has literally locked up thousands of educated, well intentioned people or severely limited their movements and access
    3) There is a bizarre cultural manifestation of both warrior and warlord in the current command structure that Alexander would find both impressive and sad
    4) Impressive because their is a Jesuit-type fixation on cultural change and a Ghengiz Khan like obsession with killing “bad guys”.

    I am not an anthro or even a degreed pundit but I have never seen a better class of people chained to a ideological stake. There is over $450 million worth of taxpayer’s flowing to let these professional understand what the people want yet its that same bureaucratic system that prevents them from being soldier statesmen in the immerive role.

    So they seek support through the next best thing: contractors. That’s a good and a bad thing. If I ran the military I would issue them turbans, AKs, Afghan wives, flip flops and Korans and they would out -taliban the taliban any day :))

    I don’t think that any of the companies you list are inherently bad or ill intentioned they are simply trying to provide something to the military that the military cannot inherently or efficiently provide itself.

  4. Thanks for the comments by Dylan, Ryan, and RYP.

    RYP, you don’t think there is anything bad about any of these companies? That includes the ones with involvement in targeted assassinations, torture, domestic spying, and various forms of obvious cronyism? I suppose this depends on one’s values.

  5. Dr. Forte, do you pay taxes? Just asking, because if you do you are a direct supporter of the military-industrial-complex, and a supporter of both wars.
    Next, does the university that you work at have any government contracts of any kind, or contracts with private corporations? If so then…
    Any contracts with any corporation, or government agency, associated with either military or intelligence services? If so then…

    If I was to put together a social network matrix of every member of the AAA on one side, and any government, private corporation, military or intelligence agency on the other, what do you think the odds are that there will be more associations than not.

    This is a massive conflation of logical associations, which means that this is an apple to oranges comparison. Please write something without so many logical fallacies in it. Please look up what a logical fallacy is. Also, please stop conflating your personal beliefs and opinions with anthropology.
    You have every right to every opinion you have, you just don’t get to say that those opinions speak for or represent a discipline. No single one of us gets that privilege.

  6. Your comment is nonsensical, for being contradictory. Speaking of apples and oranges, and massive conflations: the involuntary payment of taxes can in no way be equated with voluntarily joining HTS. That ends that argument.

    My university is not very good at disclosing the contracts it has with the military-industrial complex. That is being researched, and when the results are known, it will likely be followed up with political action that I will gladly support. Now, how do YOU challenge the military-industrial complex?

    Point out the logical fallacy in my argument — however, first you have to learn what that is. Please do not use terms and concepts that you do not understand.

    The real nonsense in your post comes at the very end. First, I never said that I spoke for the discipline of anthropology — indeed, I SAY THE EXACT OPPOSITE, if you cared to read the page in the menu above titled “The Bloggers.” Second, I do not conflate my opinions with anthropology — from which one of your orifices did you pry that assertion?

    Lastly, address the facts. I produced a very detailed accounting of what is in fact objective reality. You militarist sycophants love to accuse critics of merely being ideological…then when presented with a mountain of cold, hard facts…you get all stupid: evasive, changing topic, resorting to badly learned Wikipedia lessons on logic, etc. In addition, please do not ever presume to lecture me on anthropology.

  7. “If I was to put together a social network matrix of every member of the AAA on one side, and any government, private corporation, military or intelligence agency on the other, what do you think the odds are that there will be more associations than not.”

    Since the focus of the article is on the military and intelligence, I would say you should go ahead and try to prove your point with factual evidence, rather than speculative hypothesizing. You also need to specify, when saying “more associations”, to what it is that you are comparing AAA members. Will there be as many associations between every AAA member and military-intelligence-corporations, as there are between HTS social scientists and such corporations? I would think the answer is obvious: no.

    One has to also keep in mind that the criticisms offered here, or by the NCA, against HTS, are by no means out of step with the AAA…which is why the AAA has rejected HTS as both unethical and not a legitimate exercise of anthropology. Start with that basic fact, and do not pretend like we are back in 2007 and the debates have only just started. Some debates have been brought to a conclusion, and it’s a conclusion of the AAA membership against HTS.

  8. Max you said: “RYP, you don’t think there is anything bad about any of these companies? That includes the ones with involvement in targeted assassinations, torture, domestic spying, and various forms of obvious cronyism? I suppose this depends on one’s values.”

    No it doesn’t Max, I think your terminology is a little cinematic when compared to what these companies actually provide their clients.

    I spent three years and much of my book “Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns In The War On Terror” exploring this exact concept. I suppose in your vocabulary I functioned as a mercenary researcher or “unlicensed” anthropologist to satisfy my curiosity about what I correctly identified as an important trend. :))

    What I found is very similar to the question: “Are people inherently good or bad?” It really depends on social dynamics, peer pressure, self interest etc. The vast majority of individuals who work for these corporations have been trained, vetted and often commended by the military. Perhaps more so than in most corporations or in civilian capacity.

    Their work takes them into violent, chaotic situations in which the inherent activity is prone to stress and failure. Add to that tribal and cultural ties to the serving military and the polarized viewpoint and lawless nature of the “enemy” and their working environment (bad vs good) there is often a blur.

    Should a corporation (which is legally a separate person) have a position on the “enemy”, engage in violence or cause harm to people. Legally no. But Bremer conveniently created a loophole for many corporations to do exactly that without penalty. Things have changed (just review all the recent lawsuits and the demise of Blackwater) but I would no corporations you have listed are both legal, moral and staffed by people that individually you would have no problem with.

    Also there is the basic quality standards of demand vs supply. There are only so many qualified people for certain and jobs and if demand exceeds supply…standards drop.

    And of course there is always the question Why not apply your skills on this “tribe”? I would love to see a more formal anthropological view of the contracting world :)

    I think if you read my book you would see there is unexplored and fertile territory there



  9. Hi Robert,

    I have not only read LICENSED TO KILL, I use part of it in my course (, and coincidentally I have even argued in class that much of what you do in that book is anthropological, and at the very least if an anthropologist were to research the same actors and phenomena, and write up the ethnography in a publicly accessible fashion (for a “general audience”), I ask students how the work of an anthropologist would have been any different.

    Now that I have paid my dues, I can get back to attacking your message :D

    You think my terminology is a little “cinematic”? That’s interesting, because I am referring to actual documented happenings. Perhaps you mean life imitates art, and in this case a very horrific art. What these companies “actually” provide to their clients, varies considerably, and is wide enough to include exactly what I listed, and again, that has been documented. It is not an empty assertion.

    “Their work takes them into violent, chaotic situations”

    Oh boo hoo hoo Robert. Their work is what brings the violence and chaos into the situation! I just watched this particular clip of Blackwater at work in Iraq, last night:

    Sorry, what was that about the chaos and violence? This looks like some armed punks on drugs living out a real life Grand Theft Auto video-game fantasy.

    As for “the polarized viewpoint and lawless nature of the ‘enemy'” — I have no idea about what the heck you are selling here. You mean people fighting violent invaders have a “polarized” position…what, you mean all on their own, resulting from the way they were socialized, or their genes, and not because of an understandable reaction against conquerors? And lawless…I cannot take that seriously when the invaders made it their mission to demolish their lawful governments.

    As for the corporations I listed being “both legal, moral and staffed by people that individually you would have no problem with” I am now certain that you have misunderstood me. First, it’s not about individual persons, and second, as collectivities engaged in a particular systemic phenomenon, yes, I very much have a problem with them, and with those of us in academia who are responsible for militarizing our own institutions.

    “I would love to see a more formal anthropological view of the contracting world” — then please read Roberto Gonzalez, who inspired much of this work, got the ball rolling. If by more formal, you mean older and traditional, then we enter the realm of interest group politics and the works of Abner Cohen and others, tied to studies of social conflict by Max Gluckman, and crossed with political economic anthropology of the sort produced by Eric Wolf and Jonathan Friedman.

  10. An Iraqi female publisher told me this story: A year before the invasion of Iraq, while she was sitting in her books booth in Frankfurt Book Fair , Germany, A sinister man (as she described him) with a name that sounded Eastern European, asked her if she had any thematic maps of Iraq? She said that as she did not know the meaning of the word “thematic”, she asked him what he meant. He took out of his Samsonite bag a map of American Indian tribes, and explained to her that if she would provide such a map of Iraqi tribes, he would pay handsomely.

    She told me that when she looked up in the internet for Iraqi tribal maps, she found all kinds of such maps, so why that man was so desperate to buy “thematic” maps?

  11. About Mcneil Technologies (15 of your list) . I was doing some researches about General Barry McCaffrey which led me to Mcneil T. I was interested in Mac for his role in the war crime of killing in cold blood Iraqi POWs during the 1991 Gulf war. Symour Hirsh was the first to tell the story of this crime.

    After he had retired from the army, President Clinton appointed him from 1996-2001 as the
    Tsar of drugs. Some say that he was involved in illegal drug trade to finance death squads in Colombia. You may remember that Dyncorp, the infamous defense contractor was
    also working in Colombia.

    In 2000,McCaffrey was elected on board of directors in Dyncorp! Who else was on board Dyncorp? Retired General Anthony Zinni, who was the “hero” of Clinton’s Desert Fox in 1998 where Iraq was bombed to wag-the-dog the scandal of Monica.

    Dyncorp now has the following managing directors among others, but pls. remember the names:

    Ret. Gen. MacCaffrey
    Ret.Gen. Zinni
    Ret.Gen. Richard E. Hawley (of air force)
    Ramzi M. Musallam
    Robert B. McKeon

    Dyncorp joined Mcneil Technologies, which also has on its board of directors:

    MacCaffrey, Zinni, Hawley, Musallam and Mckeon.

    Both companies, Dyn. and Mcn. have a mother company which was established in 1992 under the name of (Varitas Capital).Who are its managing team? Do I have to repeat? MacCaffrey, Zinni, Hawley, Musallam and Mckeon.

    Now Dyn. and Mcn. merged and produced in 2006 a baby company called “Global Linguist Solutions”. The director is the same General McCaffrey. since 2007 this company was in charge of providing the US army in iraq with: traslators, spies, and prostitutes.

    This is the profiteering pattern.

  12. I wrote about corporatism recently on my website.

    It all started to go down hill when Corporations became protected under the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment as “Natural Born Citizens” this gives them the right the petition the government and all other rights of an individual citizen.

    It was not always like this, i go into much more detail in my article here:

    I take an early look at the history of corporations in America and give a few different examples from the modern era. I thought you might want to take a look at this. Thanks for the good read.

Comments are closed.