U.S. Army Human Terrain System News: Hamilton Deserves Credit, CG TRADOC in Trouble, Training Woes

Updated version:

“Please warn your sources in HTS that TRADOC G2 senior management is on to them. I was told this in a conversation I had with the TRADOC G2 today. It’s sad that finding out your sources seems to be a priority. I hate to see anyone lose their job over this.”

Clearly, program reorganization and redirection are the key elements of Colonel Sharon Hamilton’s mission as program manager of the HTS. Sources speculate that she has questioned some in the chain-of-command about the “many millions of dollars wasted on a program that cannot produce any product.” Whether that is true or not, one thing is certain: Colonel Hamilton was dropped into a US Army program that was allowed by senior TRADOC management to carve its own self-destructive path. Meaningful oversight of the HTS program was non-existent.

Colonel Hamilton’s task is largely thankless. The investigations of the HTS program by the US Army and the House Armed Services Committee, and the stories as relayed by nearly 100 sources for this 17 month series of articles, has shown just how rotten the core of the program had become.

She deserves much credit for her actions thus far in trying to change the culture and, apparently, merge Human Terrain Analysis into Geospatial practice for modeling and simulation. The Human Terrain System website shows that the management has backed off marketing the program as “applied anthropology” and, of course, has forced the resignations of those who, while at the helm, shipwrecked the HTS effort and in the process lost and shattered lives.

Sources say that HTS Training is still a serious weak point in the program and the much ballyhooed HTS Training Redesign is already in trouble.

“There is lack of progress in the much discussed training redesign. There is supposed to be a 10 week redesign that goes in to effect in January 2011 but only 1 week is complete and not properly vetted or to TRADOC standards. The only successful training that continues to receive high marks is to be eliminated. For example, there is a contractor that repeatedly received high marks from students and also refused to reduce TRADOC training standards or compromise on work product. The HTS Training Redesign Team hates the contractor and frequently copies their product but can’t replicate the contractor’s experience.”

What it boils down to is this, agreed sources: “The real problem that HTS has is that their reputation is so bad that it scares off any qualified/creditable trainers. They will not work on the program. They can’t even get people to the CRC on time!”

There are rumors, say sources, that the HTS program’s performance has been so poor that it may cost General Martin Dempsey, CG of TRADOC, dearly. “A serious issue is that the [HTS] investigations have reached into the TRADOC Headquarters and may negatively impact on Dempsey’s future. He has not done enough to clean up the HTS mess.”

Other sources have reported that Dempsey is a “good man” and has done a good job as the TRADOC CG. They say Dempsey’s problem is Maxi McFarland who is known as a real bare knuckle, back room fighter. He gets what he wants and no one will challenge him. He has friends in high places. His contacts are built on personal support of the Army’s current leadership. He was a colonel when the current leadership held captain/major rank. There is no risk to him or his position.”

Sources say that one of the US Army’s Human Terrain System senior managers, Jeff Bowden, is resigning effective 31 December 2010. Observers say that Bowden was recently reprimanded by the HTS Program Manager, Colonel Sharon Hamilton (USA), for matters relating to his performance, or lack thereof, in the HTS program.

Also of note is the promotion of Christopher King, PhD in Forensic Anthropology—not Cultural Anthropology—who will head the social science directorate. Some say the difference in the two fields” is important.” Chris King is a forensic anthropologist. He was chosen to lead the “social science directorate” not for his qualifications but because he is the least controversial “last man standing.”

On the artistic side, HTS will be featured as the topic of a theater performance in Los Angeles, California. Playwright Rick Mitchell has penned and produced a performance titled SHADOW ANTHROPOLOGY: A Post-9/11 Comedy. The play will be opening and running in Los Angeles in January and February, as part of a theatre festival.

Shadow Anthropology will also be the lead play in a forthcoming collection of Mitchell’s work. The fine American actor Edward James Olmos says of Mitchell’s book, “”Funny! Provocative! Stunningly poignant! Rick Mitchell is a great American Playwright.”

Mitchell is also working on a “comic song” about the Human Terrain System.

13 thoughts on “U.S. Army Human Terrain System News: Hamilton Deserves Credit, CG TRADOC in Trouble, Training Woes

  1. A couple of notes here John.

    First, a French newspaper reports that since June of 2010, no HTS personnel can accompany troops into battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Second, I am not aware that King is a forensic anthropologist, and I do not recall him describing himself as such when I met him, along with two members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists. Yes, forensic anthropology is not like cultural anthropology, and is totally unsuited to the kind of ethnographic research that HTS claimed to want–but it is better suited for analyzing crime scenes, bones, mass graves.

    Third, are you in fact saying that King is McFate’s replacement? What is “the social science directorate”? Is there another directorate? Also, when and where was McFate’s job advertised, or was King just appointed without competition?

    Fourth, I think you are too quick to buy into this notion that HTS has stopped marketing itself as an applied anthropology program. For a U.S. audience, especially under the critical eyes of the AAA and NCA, it tries to pretend this–you mention their reputation being damaged, and it wants to avoid more. BUT then in foreign newspapers, yes, it is straight out anthropology. And who replaces McFate, if I understand your article? Another anthropologist. Coincidence? Hardly.

    Lastly, I feel really uncomfortable at all the sweet talk directed at Sharon Hamilton, in this and previous pieces. Going soft by any chance?

  2. McFate’s job was advertised. I saw it posted on usajobs over the preceding months. Jen Clark had been doing the job of heading the social science ‘directorate’ (have as little clue what that semantic bit of mumbo jumbo means as you do). Basically, they are supposed to be responsible for all the social scientists deployed and in training, although in my experience they interacted with the latter very little (a 2 hour workshop hastily organized at the end of training, that included information that should have been discussed earlier and at more length, instead of the filler that comprised most of training). They played a big role in planning the curriculum, though, esp. the social science parts.

    I’m not 100% sure, but that bit about Chris King being trained in forensic anthropology rings a bell.

  3. It’s about time Bowden got shown the door. His lack of counterinsurgency experience is only matched by his lack of skill in managing and dealing with people. Maybe he should try working as a deployed contractor and see how good his skill sets are in a world where performance counts? I won’t hold my breath waiting for that!

  4. Yes, you’re right: I do not recall that about King, probably because it never came up in discussion, but what I see from certain dated and expired links in Google are snippets like these: “christopher a king, anthropology, forensics, physical anthropology, southeast asia, skeletal biology, asia, china, thailand, stable isotope, carbon,” and there is this, Osteometric Assessment of 20th Century Skeletons from Thailand and Hong Kong, also here at dissertation.com.

    There was once a christopherking.net, and this is a surviving copy: click here. So this aspect appears to be settled. Many thanks for making me take a closer look.

    By any chance, have you saved a copy of the ad for McFate’s job? Clearly I missed it, and I would like to see how it was written.

  5. Hey Max.

    As with the bulk of these pieces, I am reporting what I am being told.

    The reviews on Hamilton are positive thus far and she deserves credit for some of her efforts. On her watch McFate, Fondacaro and Bowden have been terminated. This was always cited as a core problem by sources and so now they are gone. The reporting we have done, thanks to the nearly 100 sources, is largely responsible for that and other changes.

    I don’t think there has been anything sweet on this task. I am not complaining about your comments above other than to say as close to this story as I am, it has been taxing to cover a tragedy in progress.

    I have seen the foreign newspaper accounts but do not give them much weight. I believe it is incorrect on the no combat patrols for HTS. The main reason for adding the Fort Polk CAT piece is to get trainee’s used to a combat environment.

    The Pentagon leadership wants some type of HTS program to run across all services. The Intel people are playing a role there to get a piece of the action.

  6. John, the only major flaw with the Ft Polk piece is that it is also run by reservists. I talked to someone who went through there (active duty) in the last four months, and they called it “a bad joke”.

  7. Is the Jeff Bowden of HTS a former USMC Colonel, helicopter pilot? If so, I worked for him at Leavenworth in 2004, when he had a role in the Staff College. He had no business in an education/training leadership position, and he’d be a disaster trying to run a complex new social science program. He certainly had no use for the civilian PhD faculty at CGSC, and those were military historians. I can’t imagine him trying to lead cultural anthropologists! He really ended up as an HTS manager?!?!

  8. Col Hamilition can’t walk the walk. When social scientists or other team members are “disciplined” based on outright lies by their team leads, lies never investigated by Col Dave Ramsey, Col Hamiliton just believes everyone on the military side is good as gold and the civilians are the bad apples. Fact is, a lot of the civilians have military backgrounds, get along well with others, and work their asses off to accomplish a lot of good, only to be marginalized, slandered, etc by wholly unqualified, fragile egoed Team Leads and some social scientists. The program is completely jacked up. The regularly violate laws against one another–because the last thing they are concerned about it what matters: making a positive difference for Afghanistan and the US military alike. Rather they are incredibly self-serving, back stabbing, and some of the most unprofessional people. No wonder the reservists they hire stay in the cess pool; they would never get a real job with behaviors and attitudes as they currently possess. (note. there are a few very good team leads and a few very good social scientists. But they leave the program because of the bullshit).

  9. Col Hamiliton can’t walk the walk. She covers the assess of people who lie, cheat, steal, etc.
    Yeah, that would be you Program manager, Kabul, Col Dave Ramsey and your team lead cronies that you don’t have the moral courage to confront, or other ill will hirees. It is the Army, not BAE that is screwing this whole thing up.

  10. Thanks for your messages today Sofia, and sorry for the long time it took to spot them and have them posted. Incidentally, another piece is coming up soon here that might interest you.

    Best wishes.

  11. John, the only major flaw with the Ft Polk piece is that it is also run by reservists. I talked to someone who went through there (active duty) in the last four months, and they called it “a bad joke”.

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