Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks:

Can the Hamlet Evaluation System Inform the Search for Metrics in Afghanistan?

by David Gayvert

Download the Full Article: Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

After years of tracking and reporting various pacification metrics without a uniform methodology or purpose, in 1967 the US implemented the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) as a critical element in a comprehensive reporting schema that came to include a number of US and Vietnamese metric reports. Although it went through a number of modifications, HES remained in force for the remainder of US active involvement in the conflict, and notwithstanding other meaningful data sources, came to be regarded by many as the single most reliable means of assessing trends in Vietnam pacification efforts. While it had short-comings and its share of detractors, a number of independent studies confirmed that HES was a well-designed and implemented system that met accepted tests of validity and reliability, and provided commanders and policy-makers solid data upon which to base decisions.

Nine years into fighting the Afghan insurgency, neither the US nor its coalition partners have developed a similar uniform means to measure counterinsurgency (COIN) progress. Notwithstanding the hundreds of post-9/11 analyses touting lessons learned, parallels and contrasts between US experiences in Vietnam and the current conflict in Afghanistan, none seems to have considered the development and implementation of HES as potentially instructive in the quest for developing useful measures of current COIN effectiveness. Meanwhile, debate continues over how to track improvement in Afghanistan—which metrics are valid and reliable, how to collect, normalize and interpret them, and how to get all relevant organizations to agree to a common standard.

This essay argues that a conceptually simple approach like HES may hold elements of solution to the vexing problem of metrics for COIN in Afghanistan. It does not suggest that a "HES for Afghanistan" should necessarily replace current data collection and analysis efforts, nor that the metrics and methodology employed in HES can be seamlessly overlain or incorporated into existing intelligence and reporting structures. It does suggest that a careful examination of the development, implementation, modification, and validation of HES may yield clues for those seeking to put in place meaningful measurements of COIN progress in Afghanistan.

Download the Full Article: Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

David Gayvert is an avid reader of Small Wars Journal, and he currently works as a consultant for the Irregular Warfare Support Program. The views expressed in this essay are his own, and do not reflect the positions or policies of the US Department of Defense.

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