06 May 2010

Cryptome on HTS: Ready! Fire! Aim!

John Stanton's Reports on the US Army Human Terrain System over at Cryptome appear to be hard-hitting inside-source style writing that have a single-minded mission: advocate for the shut down of HTS.

However, if you scratch the surface, you find quite a few problems.

In this article, which focuses on Dr McFate's illegitimate child, Stanton takes aim at a lot of issues within HTS.

The US Army HTS has been plagued with troubles that continue unabated. Allegations of sweet-heart deals with personnel at the US Naval Post Graduate School to develop MAP HT, shell companies created by those connected to Fondacaro/McFate to absorb HTS funds, questionable business intelligence practices between contractors seeking HTS work, and HTS personnel resignations ("in disgust and sexual harassment at HTS HQ Fort Leavenworth have resurfaced again as the calendar year 2009 comes to a close. US Army HTS has continued to lower its recruiting and training standards (allowing the near-elderly into combat zones) and it is reported that in the transition from civilian contractor-run to government-run some time ago, fully 71 percent of employees walked away from the program.

Now, I can tell you as someone who has worked on Map-HT for over a year now, NPS had nothing to do with it. There are a lot of people involved. CENTCOM is running operational management; the Army's CERDEC is running technical management. US Army Psyops and Civil Affairs, Maritime Civil Affairs (Navy), and yes, HTS all have a seat at the table representing the user community. MITRE is there to work the data models and DCGS compatibility. Overwatch built much of the software, and handles a lot of training, alongside SunTek. PFI is handling testing and integration, and Booz-Allen-Hamilton has the info assurance piece. The Army's ATEC is handling documentation, which is leading to the first draft of much of the doctrine involved. But NPS? Nowhere near the program. They just aren't. It's not just a lack of "sweetheart" deal. There's *no* deal. None. At all.

In another article, Stanton takes even narrower aim at Map-HT.

The nonfunctioning MAP HT remains controversial, according to sources, for a number of reasons. First, because there are plenty of robust US Army computing software/networks that perform the same or similar functions as MAP HT. Better still, these systems have already been bought and paid for. Second, US Army regulations, in many instances, also mandate that existing software/networks be utilized. For example, CENTCOM's secure Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE), plus already extant software/networks that the US Army has in place, was used by enterprising HTS personnel as a substitute for the nonperforming MAP HT.

And in the process, Stanton shows that he is remarkably ill-informed about the uses and purposes of the software. First, CIDNE is an intel system, and Map-HT is a civil affairs system, that happens to be in use with HTS. That's right, USACAPOC is driving that train, not HTS. HTS gets what USACAPOC decides to deliver to them. HTS has a voice in the room when discussing requirements, but HTS are not the development shop for Map-HT, CENTCOM/CERDEC/USACAPOC are.

Back to CIDNE... It's relevant that CIDNE is an intel system, and Map-HT is a civil affairs system. You see, CA personnel are not supposed to conduct intel activities. CA guys can't even 'collect' information. They have to 'assess' things. There are important legal distinctions that have a lot to do with host nation integration, NGO cooperation, etc. You can't just use CIDNE b/c then the intel and CA reporting chains are unified, and that's illegal. If Stanton actually knew about the subject, instead of cutting and pasting disgruntled emails from former HTS employees, he'd understand the difference.

Furthermore, if he were really the investigative journalist he likes to pretend he is, he'd look even deeper into CIDNE and why data is not shared out of CIDNE. It's not shared because CIDNE does not want to. CIDNE was told to open their databases to push info through the PASS to ABCS services; they didn't. CIDNE was told to open their databases to push info through the PASS to FusionNet; they didn't. CIDNE was told to open their databases for queries coming from Map-HT to check to see if persons were being tracked in the intel world so the CA guys could hand them off and get out of the 'intel business'; they didn't. Oh yeah, and back in 2007, CIDNE's software was randomly declassifying source files by sharing them through the CDX to CENTRIX even though they weren't authorized to be pushed through the CDX. CIDNE started as a HUMINT tracking system, morphed into an intel deconfliction system, then started trying to do battlefield events management, too. All the while keeping their arms tight around their data stores and not sharing them with anyone, despite multiple stars instructing them to.

Is Map-HT perfect? Hardly. And from the inside, I can tell you I have a pretty good handle on what a lot of the flaws are - and one of them is not the system, but the training in how to use it and the lackadaisical approach to training that HTS and USACAPOC both adopted early in the program. The training plan and the emphasis on it are both being addressed.
Map-HT is also only in Spiral 1 - the initial deployable capability. You have to get it into the field to see how it works before you can truly assess it. Spiral 2 is supposed to incorporate feedback from downrange into the system and get Map-HT closer to a fully developed and deployable system. But riddle me this, Stanton: If Map-HT is such crap, why are there 47 outstanding requests for CF-52s currently languishing for lack of budget with the Map-HT hierarchy? People are asking for it because they see value in it.

HTS has issues. No one is going to deny it. But if Stanton can't get basic, verifiable, and legal distinctions right - the stuff that you can either find publicly available, or should know and understand if you purport to be a journalist pontificating on the topic - then how are we supposed to believe the anonymously-sourced details, the seedy war stories, the innuendo and rumor, and the hearsay? If he can't get right the facts that the public can easily verify, why should I trust in him to accurately report the stuff I can't?

The short answer is that I can't trust him. He clearly has an axe to grind with HTS. There are far bigger budget sinkholes than HTS, and there are far bigger ethical issues in the government contracting world than HTS and Map-HT (go look into Alaskan 8A designations for an abuse of gov't contracting). I don't know why Stanton has it in for HTS, but it would be nice if he could get the facts straight before going on the warpath.

By: Brant

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