HTS’ MAP HT Failure: People Not Being Paid, MAP HT Cost Overrruns

“It would seem that the U.S. Army TRADOC Command has entered a time warp. They have dusted off the files on CORDS and the old FAO program. The new COIN manual and doctrine are the Holy Grail!  The message being sent  is this: Use COIN or else!”

The HTS Program Manager was scheduled to make a magic appearance here to observe the wonderful MAP HT training program unfold. However, while en route, he was called back to HTS Headquarters to discuss the results of an employee survey that was sent out to HTS U.S. Army civilians about a month ago.  The response rate was dismally low (30%). Those  that did respond apparently did so with a vengeance. Direct criticism of MAP HT and questionable activity, falling under the ‘Waste, Fraud, and Abuse’,  statutes were apparently brought up by more than one person.”

Among the litany of woes within the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, it is difficult to pick one that outdoes the other. However,  in the last few months,  MAP HT has come under much criticism from a variety of sources in Washington, DC and out-CONUS [Department of Defense term for the 48 contiguous U.S. states]. Not only has MAP HT failed to materialize in any useful form, but also that “MAP Anything” is hardly a novel concept in 2010. Geospatial analysis, mapping, modeling and simulation can be done by just about any competent computer user these days. Indeed, there are dozens of online programs available at no cost, plus Google Earth is out there with many API’s for use. It’s actually become a popular pastime in the U.S.

To map the human terrain of one’s neighborhood, say, one need only observe movements, dress, speech, trends, political comments, etc. and input that data into, say, MAP HT Neighborhood. The same could be done on a visit to a community in another country. Just bring the survey data back and plug it in to your very own geospatial program.

We Are All Human Terrain Team Members!

Before getting back inside the U.S. Army HTS,  it’s worth going off on a short but worthy tangent. Americans are all intelligence collectors now. In fact, that is precisely what CENTCOM CG David Petraeus’ seems to have envisioned long ago. To enlist the nation to become Human Terrain Intelligence Gatherers in the global wars on insurgency, drugs, crime, or whatever other threat/war there needs to be. His human terrain concept has, remarkably, been hammered into the fabric of national military strategy and tactics, and President Obama’s recently released National Security Strategy of the USA (NSS).

According to the New York Times, the Petraeus Plan requires “American troops, businessmen/women, and academia…” to join in the fight. Was anyone really surprised that kill-capture would have to go way beyond CENTCOM’s AOR or into all other COCOM AOR’s? President Obama’s NSS buttresses the case. The public is called forward, again, to be on the watch for the “enemy.” Americans will be engaged further at how best to do that in the coming years. Obama goes on to say that national security is indistinguishable from homeland security.

Petraeus and Obama (plus Admiral Olson of SOCOM) have created arguably the most aggressive covert/overt campaign to counter an “enemy” since WWII and the Cold War. All levels of U.S. society are now being asked to be on guard in this national/global effort in an uncertain world.

This truly is Whole of Government and Whole of Society as depicted by the logo for the U.S. Interagency Task Force on COIN.

So be it.

But when the day comes to pass that the U.S. becomes engaged in a  20th century style conventional land war–and it will—America better be able to rapidly set aside COIN/HTS as the central focus of U.S. military strategy/tactics.

There is grave danger in betting the country’s future focused maniacally on this approach.

MAP HT: Fondacaro’s Boondoggle

It’s official. MAP HT, “The boondoggle of all boondoggles raised it’s ugly head in a big way.” Sources say “Steve Fondacaro got a weed up his ass about a month ago and mandated that all teams attend MAP HT training.”  “That was a great plan,” they say, “except the crap doesn’t work. It consists of a bunch of outdated servers sitting in Pelican Cases that are gathering dust in various corners of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Not deterred, an MTT (Mobile Training Team) began its MAP HT Road Show starting with HT’Ts  in Kandahar. Subsequently, when three groups of U.S. Army Civilians failed the week long course, an individual employed as a U.S. Army contractor threatened them all with being fired.” That action is in clear violation of Human Relations procedures covering U.S. Federal Employees. The same contractor, according to sources,  is responsible for “pushing the SSRA–another taxpayer rip-of”– when not trying to sell MAP HT”.

Sources claim, “He is in bed with yet another U.S. Army contractor “to get MAP HT crammed down everyone’s throats at the behest of Steve Fondacaro so his buddy Dan Wolf can get richer. Steve set him up to supply all of HTS’ computer systems and equipment through a company his wife apparently owns.”

It is reported that, “to date MAP HT has cost the taxpayers some $40 million for a pile of junk that’s not being used. The kicker is that it finally has received some kind of initial accreditation from the U.S. Army to be used on the NIPR (unclassified) network where it does little good.”

The vast majority of HTT reports are posted on SIPR and CENTRIX-I, not NIPR

Further, the licenses for Analyst Notebook and ARC GIS have expired. Sources say “it’ll take another $60 million to get the system operating and usable.” Evidently, Fondacaro is trying to get the $60 million slipped into the Army’s O&S budget request so it will not be noticed.

HTTs are apparently on the move now in Afghanistan again–at considerable expense–to attend another MAP HT training gig  conducted by Wolf and the two U.S. Army contractors cited above. Sources say one BCT Commander had to delay a major campaign for a week since a “gung-ho HTT Team Leader (who imploded his own team in Bagram previously) mandated that his ENTIRE team attend MAP HT–leaving the BCT Commander without HTT support until they returned.”

We’ll Pay You When We Feel Like it

“The general public does not have any clue how serious an issue it is for us in HTS.”

There is an internal tracking system known as Request For Support (RFS) where compensation matters are tracked. There are “well over 1,000 open requests being tracked.” Sources say, the overwhelming bulk of these are related to pay issues. “An  important point to consider is that each RFS may contain several problems for one HTT member from one pay period, or the RFS may include an entire HTTs worth of problems. Multiply each pay issue in RFS by four or six times and the extent of this becomes apparent.”

Evidently, some HTT members are owed $15,000 or more for services rendered.

It is all a “big yawn” say observers back at Fort Leavenworth. “The individual person who processes the civilian payroll shows outright animosity towards the U.S. Army Civilians and routinely decides on her own what hours someone actually worked instead of following what was on the timesheet/timecard”.

It is reported that one team was “shorted” holiday pay and when they informed the person who processes the payroll, she shot back a reply that the payroll would be adjusted to reflect the hours worked (even though it was a holiday period). It took nearly four months to fix.

HTT’s have reportedly been denied overtime premium pay for working past 6:00pm. This is a requirement mandated by U.S. Federal law. “Attempts by the USFOR Human Resources representative  to get this resolved have been met with stone-walling from HTS HQ. They refuse to return emails sent to them by the  HR representative.”

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Addendum by Max Forte on MAP HT–some background notes:

Regarding this Department of Defense Science and Technology program, Mr. Alan R. Shaffer, Principal Deputy, Defense Research and Engineering, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, March 13, 2008:

The Mapping the Human Terrain (MAP-HT) JCTD in its first year deployed over 20 Human Terrain Teams (HTTS) to OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] & OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom]. These teams have deployed an integrated, open source, human terrain data collection and visualization toolkit to support Brigade Combat teams in understanding human terrain. Prior to deployment of the MAP-HT toolkit, combat teams had severely limited Joint, Service, or Interagency integrated capability (organization, methods, tools) to effectively collect/consolidate, visualize, and understand open source socio-cultural (“green data”) information to assist Commanders understand the “human terrain” in which they operate. The MAP-HT toolkit is increasing team situational awareness and enhancing interoperability with Iraqi troops and civilian leadership while improving security. (p. 25)

The “Mapping the Human Terrain” (MAP-HT) comes out of Joint Capability Technology Demonstrations (JCTD), tied to the Office for the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. JCTD has produced some promotional propaganda about the “success story” of MAP-HT, and in this vein Alan R. Shaffer was back before the U.S. HASC on 20 May 2009 where he testified:

Another novel JCTD, called Mapping the Human Terrain (MAP-HT) is providing tools for collecting and processing social and cultural information in 2009 and 2010, enabling appropriate consideration of social and cultural factors in military decision making. Using manual techniques available to date, this capability has proven to be especially useful in operations in Iraq. (p. 22)

In the final report on HTS produced by the American Anthropological Association’s CEAUSSIC final report, we read more about the technology of HTS–MAP-HT–on page p. 16:

HTS identifies this technology thusly: “This is a software suite that enables the HTTs to store, organize, and analyze social science and other data.” As currently being developed, MAP-HT is an ensemble of tools for analysis (which potentially includes NVIVO, a qualitative data analysis software package). It is not designed to be a centralized database of material gathered by the teams. As has been reported,

Prime contractor Overwatch Tactical Operations [see “Mapping the Terrain of War Corporatism“], a unit of Textron in Texas, is developing the [MAP-HT] software with Suntek as a subcontractor, under the guidance of the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate in New Jersey. The work is one of the Pentagon’s Joint Capability Technology Demonstration projects, which are designed to quickly solve battlefield problems.

As with any such application suite as applied to socio-cultural information, it has possibilities for the future, but it is also running into problems with the mismatch between technology and the realities of social science “data.” The role of MAP-HT in the repertoire of HTTs in the field also raises questions about the integrity of data collected by HTTs, and where this data might end up. This concern is only enhanced by descriptions of the value of MAP-HT, as with the following:

The capability will provide a database augmented with specific sociocultural objects and an entity extraction capability for tagging narrative and freetext documents for ingestion into the local database.

According to reports, difficulties also remain with fielding the system and training on it. While HTS has briefed that MAP-HT is up and running, other reports from former HTT members and from as recent as September of this year, indicate that “MAP-HT is still far from being fielded”  or that MAP-HT  “has never worked.”

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