Montgomery McFate: Gone from the Human Terrain System

Sources report that Senior Social Scientist Montgomery McFate resigned her post with the US Army Human Terrain System (HTS) within the last ten days. Observers say the “category of resignation is similar to that of former HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro in that all assume it was a ‘forced resignation’  or ‘let go’ as is common within the HTS program when an employee is released.

McFate’s position is now advertised as vacant said sources.

Observers express concern that some individuals who were appointed/hired by Fondacaro and McFate at Oyster Point, Virginia–to act on their behalf in the Social Science Directorate—will not function in the best interests of the program.

Meanwhile, others report that in the HTS training class known as “Research Methods” some instructors have told students that it is acceptable “to distribute blank journals to Afghan villagers and to have them  note their impressions of what is going on in their country.” The problem is, according to sources, that the journal instructions are in English and, of course, most Afghans do not speak English and are often illiterate even in their own language.

Observers say Social Scientists are in such short supply in HTS, that they are being jumped ahead of their designated training classes and are being deployed early minus proper training to survive in a war zone. Uniformed military personnel who have “done the time” in country express bewilderment at command decisions that lead to “field training” conducted by inexperienced National Guardsmen such as the Texas Army National Guard.

Some in the “Guard” have done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and have the credentials for training. But some have just arrived in-country and are not qualified for the effort

Sources say, “active duty personnel find  HTS is useless, and only serves to extend the line to the DFAC (Dining Hall).”

20 thoughts on “Montgomery McFate: Gone from the Human Terrain System

  1. Maximilian Forte

    First, big congratulations again to John for being the first one to get this story out.

    Second, some related stories about the failure of HTS in Afghanistan:

    Petraeus: U.S. Lacks Afghan Tribal Knowledge


    Petraeus Quietly Disses ‘Human Terrain’

    the latter written by a former HTS employee, with some extra “spice” beyond what WSJ can or is willing to print.

  2. CM

    Wasn’t Montgomery McFate best buds with Petraeus and responsible for the section of the his new COIN manual that relied heavily on unattributed (and unapproved by the authors) chunks of other people’s work?

    Completely off-topic but that name sounds like something from A Series of Unfortunate Events, that wonderful group of romans noirs written for children by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). (Not the movie. Avoid the movie at all costs.) The present world resembles the world in the books more and more. Every kid should read them as a user’s manual for the future.

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  4. Maximilian Forte

    Thanks CM. That’s right, Petraeus was one of HTS’ most prominent and ardent supporters. Jettisoning the two top officials of the program, added to Petraeus’ apparent disillusionment (or covering his ass), an investigative report by the Center for Naval Analyses (not released to the public), and the Wikileaks release that shows a pattern of internal spying in HTS with a breach of the confidentiality of employee fieldnotes and passing the information along to intelligence, among various other scandals, not to mention the backfiring media campaigns, all amount to a program that can look forward to a much shortened lifespan. I would be surprised if it survived the Afghan war, and I would also be surprised if that war were continued for much longer. Promises about years more to come, are Soviet promises. The U.S. and NATO could find themselves packing up this time next year. The abandonment of propaganda about winning hearts and minds, by Petraeus these last days, and the trumpeting of vastly increased Special Operations, with an emphasis on numbers killed, suggest that this is a desperate force that is nearing the point where it will raze entire villages, just as it realizes its defeat.

    In addition, the military has created other human terrain programs, without recruiting social scientists, and other HTS-like efforts without the overt disregard for ethics and the plunge into war zones. Had there been wide approval of HTS itself, they would not have created its successors while it was still in operation.

    This story will be to the great shame of all of those who defended the program, who advocated for it, who worked for it, and those who suffered injury and loss of life in its employ. They heaped endless scorn on critics, and then find themselves with a handful of dust.

  5. T-Cell

    I think you misunderstand the meaning of the Mcflushing of McFate: it has its parallels in the efforts to destroy wikileaks credibility by attacking Assange as an individual.

    By firing McFate while saying the military does not understand Afghan culture, the message will now become that if only HTS hired the right people, it will work. This isn’t the end of HTS, it is the birth of HTS v. 2.0. In a matter of weeks, we will learn the identity of Montgomery McFate version 2.0, and when we do, we’ll all miss Missy because at least she was incompetent at doing her job.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Nicely put T-Cell. But HTS 2.0 already exists, called SCRATs, and other human terrain capabilities across military intelligence. However, that doesn’t negate what you suggest: “getting the right people” will now make the program work–as the argument may go. The real end of these programs–all of the ones mentioned–will be the end of direct American involvement in Wars in the Tribal Zone (to borrow the title of an anthropology text in fact), once such involvement can no longer be politically and/or economically sustained. Otherwise, no, no one is popping champagne corks here yet.

      I think these dual dismissals of McFate and Fondacaro are a way of quickly ushering them out before any hard questions from the CNA investigation, or someone else picking up on the Wikileaks revelations, are raised. Now the stock answer to it all can be, “we changed management, so those are old issues, we dealt with the problem.”

    2. Bedouin

      HTS did hire some of the right people, but quickly drove them away with their childish schoolyard antics. Those that were left were ill-prepared to be put in the “box” to do the job.

  6. Maximilian Forte

    Just a couple of more random thoughts for now.

    McFate came with some baggage for the program, the baggage of anthropology and its concern for ethics. Her selection, and the media campaign that the Pentagon tried to generate around this supposedly galvanizing heroine, helped to provoke intense anthropological opposition. I don’t think HTS wants a repeat. I doubt that her replacement will be an anthropologist, and certainly not someone preaching to an entire discipline about which directions it ought to choose, while belittling the discipline as it stands…and yet seeking to recruit people from it. It was a twisted message from the start, and one that was a little too arrogant for many to bear.

    At some point, we will have to revisit some of McFate’s grand claims. Anthropologizing the military? Those were her words. Anthropologists having input in policy making? How did she achieve these things, when she couldn’t even keep her job? Then there were all those she accused of being ignorant, not understanding, and she never publicly denied anything revealed in the many whistleblower reports by John Stanton. Now that she has been forced to resign, it would be good if she took time to admit to herself that so many people could not have been so wrong, all the time.

  7. Bedouin

    Max, while I agree with you, I think an admission from her will come at the same time as the next unicorn capture. The program was/is sick and needs a complete overhaul/decommissioning. Just my .02 worth.

  8. icecream&3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482542

    What mean you by “admit she is wrong?”

    She no wrong! Never wrong her, never!

    She already got $150,000 book advance from Harpercollins. She no wrong, she happy right!

    She already picking out drapes for her office at Hoover Center.

    She so happy. She have no sad.

    Happy yellow drapes. Happy happy!

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Ice Cream & Pi (lovely name):

      Do tell more.

      By the Hoover Center, do you mean the Hoover Institution at Stanford University? If so, that is definitely the appropriate place for her.

      As for the book advance, what is the book to be about?

      I was certain we had not heard the last from McFate. She can be certain that she has not heard the last from us.

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  10. Norman Rogers

    The only reason why I am stumbling across this now (one month later) is because someone extensively searched my blog for references to “Sean McFate” yesterday, and so I thought I would do a search and see what was new with my favorite little band of frauds and charlatans.

    Forced out? Or ran away, knowing they were going to come after her?

    If we had a functioning Inspector General in the Department of Defense, I would guess that the McFates would join a long list of folks under some sort of scrutiny for war profiteering or academic fraud. That’s my very considered opinion on that matter.

  11. John Stanton


    Are you Claire Ruppert with the Emerson Arts Group: Short Story Writers’ Workshop in DC?

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Hi John,

      Judging from her email address, she is Claire Ruppert, writing from Washington DC. In case she does not return to correct us on our “facts,” could you tell us more about what you know about her and her connection to HTS?

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