Saturday, April 19, 2008

HTS and Newsweek . . . and Civil Affairs

The always excellent Small Wars Journal posted a response by Dr. Montgomery McFate, the Senior Social Science Adviser to the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System Program, to a Newsweek article critical of HTS. The HTS project intrigues me because it is an active, rather than symbolic, link between academia and the military and it upholds my liberal preferences for the use of the military.

That's not why I'm posting the link. One statement caught my attention as yet another endorsement (sign?) for Army Civil Affairs. It's quoted here in context and bold-faced:

4) That soldiers on their second- or third- tours possess inestimable knowledge about the area in which they are operating is undeniable. Yet, as currently organized, combat brigades do not possess the organic staff capability or assets to organize this knowledge and look at the broad questions that HTTs are concerned with. While civil affairs soldiers are the closest to such an organic asset, along with information operations, these assets are mission-focused and often lack the manpower to engage in the sort of question-formulation and asking that HTTs can. Nor do these assets always include personnel trained in social scientific analysis. Therefore, it is the job of HTTs to take the knowledge these soldiers have gleaned, to examine the information already being gathered on the ground on a daily basis, engage in original research, and consider this information in terms of broader issues from a different perspective in order to add to the brigade commander's situational awareness of the social, economic, political, cultural and psychological factors at work in the environment.

Suits me.


20APR08 Update: Here's a letter pointing out flaws in the HTS program from two former Human Terrain Team members featured in the Newsweek article. I hope the program survives its rocky inception.



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