Small Wars Journal

An Enhanced Plan For Regionally Aligning Brigades Using Human Terrain Systems

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 5:48am

The Army is globally engaged and regionally responsive; it is an indispensible partner and provider of a full range of capabilities to Combatant Commanders in a Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multi-national (JIIM) environment.  As part of the Joint Force and as America’s Army, in all that we offer, we guarantee the agility, versatility and depth to prevent, Shape, and Win.

Army Vision from 2012 Army Strategic Planning Guidance

The 2012 Army Strategic Planning Guidance issued by Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno includes a revised Army Vision (shown above) and details four imperatives in support of that vision: 

  • “Provide modernized and ready, tailored land force capabilities to meet Combatant Commanders’ requirements across the range of military operations
  • Develop leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st Century
  • Adapt the Army to more effectively provide land power
  • Sustain the All-volunteer Army”

According to GEN Odierno and Secretary McHugh, “[t]hese imperatives drive a set of coordinated actions the Army will take to support the eleven missions outlined in the President and Secretary of Defense’s Sustaining U. S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”  Two near-term actions that the Army plans to take in support of the eleven missions are Train for Operational Adaptability and Regionally Align Forces.  The former action keys on building capability to operate in a complex environment with an emphasis on the Human Domain.  The latter action supports the former by standing up U. S. Army brigades through the ARFORGEN process that are focused on a particular geographic region in support of the Army Component Command of each of the Geographic Combatant Commands.  This endeavor is occurring in an attempt to build in some much needed and readily usable cultural expertise within the brigades themselves.  This concept is not new and has been used with great success by U. S. Army Special forces and to a lesser extent by the U. S. Marines for many years.  The experts produced in both cases were never expected to be at the Ph. D. level of deep academic knowledge, but that should not allow one to easily dismiss the knowledge that U. S. soldiers gain from focusing on a specific geographic region, and hopefully even specializing in a few counties and at least one language.  In fact, language skills are one of the severe shortfalls many scholars have noted in both the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.  In his Foreward to the 2012 Army Strategic Planning Guidance, GEN Odierno states that these efforts “will require leveraging the capacity and capabilities of the Total Army – Active, Guard, Reserve, and Civilian.” A key enabler for the Army to achieve success in both of these actions is the Human Terrain System (HTS).

HTS was created in 2006 to satisfy a Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement (JUONS) to fill a void in joint capably to understand, visualize and describe the Human Domain of the operational environments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Admittedly, HTS has a mixed record of success, but the concept is sound:  provide decision-makers with deeper sociocultural understanding of their operational environment through primary and secondary source research and analysis.  Currently there are 31 HTS teams providing operational support to U. S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan from the Brigade Combat Team/Regimental Combat Team level up to the highest level of military command in country, and the same operational support was provided in Iraq up until the withdrawal of coalition combat forces.  Additionally, HTS has recently fielded pilot liaison teams to U. S. Army Africa, U. S. Northern Command, and U. S. Special Operations Command.

The concept of regionally aligned forces is focused on the basic maneuver unit of the Army, the Brigade Combat Team.  However, the idea is not to send entire brigades at once to an area but instead to send smaller subordinate units to participate in exercises, engage in Security Force Assistance (SFA), and building partner capacity activities all while gaining valuable knowledge about the Human Domain in that particular country or region.  United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the first combatant command to develop regionally aligned brigades but General Odierno is quick to note that Pacific Command (PACOM) is next on the list because of its great strategic importance, especially in light of the recently ballyhooed “Asian Pivot” in U. S. foreign policy and strategy. This emphasis on understanding the Human Domain during shaping operations and prior to combat operations nests nicely with General Odierno’s increasing emphasis on the Human Domain of war.

General Odierno is on to something when he states that “nothing is as important to your long-term [military and strategic] success as understanding the prevailing culture and values.” He notes the U. S. Army lessons learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have driven this point home and these lessons should be built upon.  In an era of increasing budget constraints and force reductions, increasing not just the cultural awareness, but the cultural understanding prior to and during any type of military operation or activity overseas makes sense.  The increased knowledge gained prior to entering a foreign area of operations and increased once there will help units navigate more efficiently in these foreign cultures and environments.  The foreign force will have a better chance of approximating the agile swimming fish Mao so highly valued in his insurgent fight against the Nationalist government of China.

As more emphasis is placed on advise and assist missions, like the U. S. Special Forces mission against Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, cultural expertise will become paramount.  But gaining deep country knowledge solely from living and working within a foreign culture is sub-optimal.  There is a better, multi-pronged effort that can create sharper and more agile expertise with little to no additional cost. 

What if the units sent to gain regional expertise in various countries had access to people working on the ground, in many cases for years, and subject matter experts from academia?  What if this group of people already had an established, robust education curriculum these units could plug into for their first few weeks or months prior to visiting the country or region that enabled them to hit the ground running?   They do.  It is called the Human Terrain Systems (HTS).

As mentioned above, HTS does not currently have an element supporting every Combatant Command so in order for the following plan to work, HTS will have to expand to cover all the major Combatant Commands.  However, since HTS is a U. S. Army organization, the Army would direct where new HTTs are established, likely following the same approach that it will take in forming the regionally-aligned brigades.  The current pilot efforts of providing liaison teams to COCOMs, or at least to the Army Component Commands, should be expanded to all of the COCOMs.  This will provide an interface between COCOM-level strategic and operational planning and shape HTS operational support.  HTS teams could be sent forward to embassies in countries deemed significant by military planners and act as an advance enabler to the country team and then to follow-on ground forces if that potentiality is realized.  For instance, if the U. S. Army is worried about combating piracy and Islamic fundamentalism in Africa, then HTTs could be established in both Somalia and Nigeria which are currently suffering from both problems.  Alternately, or perhaps concurrently, Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) could be stood up with the regionally-aligned brigades and serve for the duration of their ARFORGEN cycle.  While home-stationed HTTs would not be able to conduct primary source research, that is, conducting interviewing, surveys, and polls among the target (usually indigenous) population, HTT team members will be able to conduct secondary source research and analysis, provide training, and enable regionally-specific exercises for their brigade in preparation for potential deployment to their focus area of the world.  Academic experts could teach soldiers the rudiments of social inquiry so that knowledge could be better gathered, categorized, and disseminated throughout the brigade.  In keeping with the previous examples, small units from brigades would be sent to Nigeria and Somalia but only after going through HTS training on these two nations (and the surrounding region as well as the overall area of responsibility of U.S. Africa Command) and then link up with the local HTT, or their parent unit HTT could accompany them and coordinate with the HTT already deployed to the embassy.  The local HTT will have deep knowledge of local players, culture, and interactions it could then relate to the Army soldiers visiting and the knowledge gained by these individuals will be manifestly deeper and more useful to the regionally aligned brigade.  In short, the regionally aligned brigade would multiply its cultural expertise knowledge and effectiveness. 

In sum, two of the Chief of Staff’s near-term priority actions could be significantly enabled by an already existing Army capability:  the Human Terrain System.  To maximize the benefit of the capabilities of HTS to regionally-aligned brigades, the capacity of HTS must be adapted and expanded to meet the new demands of the 21st Century Army.  In the long run this will be a cost-saving measure, even if near-term expansion of HTS requires increased expenditures on the program, due to the increased capability to focus efforts in training and operations to maximize sociocultural effectiveness while reducing sociocultural miscues that can be costly diplomatically, informationally, militarily and economically. 

About the Author(s)

Dan G. Cox is Associate Professor of Political Science at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Dr. Cox has published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of Peace Research, Parameters, The International Journal of Public Opinion Research and Congress and the Presidency.  Dr. Cox’s work has also appeared in journals such as Joint Force Quarterly, Terrorism Monitor and Small Wars Journal.  Dr. Cox’s work was cited in Foreign Policy Magazine online and the Straits Times of Singapore, the Bangkok Post, and the Somaliland Times.  His current research interests include identity and conflict, armed nation-building, counterinsurgency, terrorism, strategy and military planning, operational art, and security issues in Asia and Africa.  Dr. Cox is also a featured blogger on E-International Relations.


Robert C. Jones

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 12:24pm

"Two near-term actions that the Army plans to take in support of the eleven missions are Train for Operational Adaptability and Regionally Align Forces. The former action keys on building capability to operate in a complex environment with an emphasis on the Human Domain. The latter action supports the former by standing up U. S. Army brigades through the ARFORGEN process that are focused on a particular geographic region in support of the Army Component Command of each of the Geographic Combatant Commands."

Ok, shut the front door, right there. Yes, the Army does these things reasonably well with Army Special Forces, Civil Affairs and MISO units. I also see little downside to the development of Human Terrain Teams. But to assume that "there is an app for that" mindset, that the Army can task brigades on a rotating basis through the ARFORGEN process to do what takes individuals and units years of persistent engagement to develop is insane.

To think that "Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) could be stood up with the regionally-aligned brigades and serve for the duration of their ARFORGEN cycle" and that that would somehow create an organization adept at operating in the human domain is a concept that does not make much sense on its face, and I cannot imagine there to be much data or historical analysis to support either.

Realistically, the conventional army is a "land" force, not a "human domain" force. The human domain is primarily one of many obstacles that must be successfully negotiated to secure some parcel of land or to defeat some particular threat. Special Forces is a human domain force, working through, by and with the populace in support of larger operations designed to secure more conventional domains of air, land and sea.

Now, that is not to say that the Army could not develop very effective conventional units that could operate every bit as well in the human domain as Army SOF does. But it can't do it on the cheap by adding an HTT app to a rotating BCT. The Army would need to pull a handful of BCTs out of ARFORGEN, and regimentalize those BDEs with dedicated service to a single region of the planet. Soldiers and leaders would need to spend 3/4ths of their respective careers in those units, with the prerequisite for higher command being service and command at lower levels within that same BDE. We did this in the Philippines and in China in eras past; in the American West as well.

Rotating BDES cannot develop true expertise. Plus, every rotating BDE comes with a commander who wants to make BG on the back of what his BDE accomplished during his tenure as commander. The Army can promise that "the idea is not to send entire brigades at once to an area but instead to send smaller subordinate units to participate in exercises, engage in Security Force Assistance (SFA), and building partner capacity activities all while gaining valuable knowledge about the Human Domain in that particular country or region." But you can't make general doing operations like that. We all know that small army units of appropriate size for most such engagement would be led by an E-5 or E-6, and be required to operate perhaps hundreds or even thousands of miles from the nearest military logistics base or first field grade officer. The army is not designed to operate that way. Are there HTTs to place with each of a dozen squad-sized organizations scattered across Africa or the Pacific or Latin America? No, but if we had an Africa Regiment, it would develop the expertise and ability to do this in Africa; likewise elsewhere with other dedicated regiments. Much of this would be in support to what AID or State or SOF is doing, rather than as stand-alone Army designed and Army-led operations.

I fear this is a concept based on false lessons learned from the past 10 years, and that it is as much about validating additional warfighting Army active structure forward into peace as it is about solving any true problems or threats to our national interests abroad. Create five dedicated regional regiments? I'm on board and a fan. Rotate dozens of BCTs through ARFORGEN and apply an HTT app? No, you can't convince me of how that works or how that makes us safer as a nation.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 2:23pm

To pick up on the comments by G Martin--I wish we could get Cmdrs and Staffs to simply improve their abilities at "seeing" and "understanding" their OE---if that was the single biggest improvement that has come out of the last ten war years---that would be a great achievement.

The next greatest achievement if it had occurred during the last ten years would be accepting and implmenting the concept of trust---trust that a NCO or officer can raise their voice during any meeting and not be shut down---trust that micromanagment by Cmdrs could cease---trust that critical thinking/constructive discourse could prevail in all meetings without impact to ones career.

But alas after ten years of war that has not happened-nor I am afraid it will never happen-for without true trust between Staffs and Cmdrs Design will never function regardless of operational level.

Someone recently mentioned to me that really the COG in warfare lies within our Staffs-there is something to that comment.

Currently big A just gives lip service to the word "trust".


Fri, 06/15/2012 - 10:44am

It has not been shown in a decade of war that conventional forces are effective in today's environment and now to 'save' the Big Army (i.e conventional forces need funding too)Odierno is proposing that conventional forces can adapt and regionally align? What are the results of ten years of war?

Must be the strategy and tactics were wrong? I say talk to any conventional commander about insurgency/counterinsurgency and it should take you about 30 seconds to figure out they don't have a clue.

It takes a little more than saying you can do something for it to actually be reflected in the results. I would tend not to believe the Big Army nor would I reward an organization that has performed extremely poorly. Inept and incompetent conventional forces produced the results we see in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Leave the amateurs on the parade ground where they excel, they lack the self-discipline, motivation, and leadership needed to succeed in complex environments.

G Martin

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 10:38am

Dr. C- interesting paper, although, like Outlaw said, I think the jury may still be out on how much HTS really has- and really could- contribute to success. We seem to have no end in sight to all of the tactical-level good ideas we are coming up with to address the future, but- although we acknowledge the need for improved campaign planning and strategic planning capability- I'm at a loss to identify many efforts aimed at addressing that (or, perhaps more importantly- a holistic, all-encompassing effort). If the key is a good strategy and the capability to link tactical action with that strategy (as COL Maxwell noted), then why aren't we focused more on that? SAMS has used the left hook hail Mary in Desert Storm as its great contribution for some time now- is there anything we can take pride in from our arguably best operational level planner corps since then? I think we SAMSters come up with some great buzzwords- human domain being the latest- but where is it getting us? Someone made a comment the other day during a planning conference- it seems like we are rewarded when we come up with concepts that we can latch spending plans to. This cynical take on the purpose of doctrine got lots of head nods- and, if true- does not bode well for us for the future outside of securing funding and the mandate to restructure around an answer to air-sea battle.

I guess my point is that we seem fixated on working on improving ourselves at the tactical level- where I would argue we've largely gotten it right for the past 10 years. Instead I would worry about the case where we get the tactical preparation 100% right for the next action- and then still lose because our structure/epistemology/systems are not conducive to using military force in conjunction with other resources to reach political objectives.

To start that I'd get the Army to be more open to criticism of prevailing concepts. The "human domain" is one example. I've heard very little talk about the human domain outside of doctrine writers and a few field grades/general officers. When it is talked about- there is no criticism of it, everyone seems to love it. Those who have criticized it (outside of the Army) have said it seems linked to money and missions. Wagging the dog. I've had admittedly little insight into the human domain concept- but when I asked one of its proponents about it I was told that the Army has the "land" domain, the Navy the "water", and the Air Force the "air"- now SOF would have the "human". I am hoping that was an ignorant take on the concept.

In closing- I would disagree with the Chief's comments that the key is understanding the people. I think the key is understanding our own political objectives and interests (including limitations) and using our understanding of the people (necessary, but not sufficient) of a certain area to get to our political objectives. We seem to assume if we just concentrate on "the people"- we'll reach our own political objectives. This Pollyann-ish way of communicating may play well as sound bytes, but I submit they aren't believed overseas and they don't sustain support by our people who don't seem to want our troops fighting for an extended time frame for what other people want. In short, I think the "human" fixation we have of late is overrated and dangerous, I think there's a reason commanders don't appreciate Civil Affairs and MISO types (and its not that they don't understand them), and I think our true capability gap is at the operational and strategic planning realms- and that gap is linked intimately to our structure, epistemology, and systems (i.e.- we can't just tweak some change on the fringe to fix this).

Outlaw 09

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 2:24pm

An interestiong article---now that the hand writing is on the wall---meaning no further OCO funding for large numbers of enablers that were cranked out to support the BCTs during Iraq and Afghanistan we start seeing unique and interesting ways at trying to accomplish what was not accomplished since 2006 for HTS---namely---making them a program of record which would ensure funding channels after OCO.

HTS and any number of other enablers provided to the BCTs in the last six years---ie LEP, HTS, AtN, were all more or less funded by JIEDDO which is massively cutting their OCO budget starting 1 October.

For every article praising the great things that HTS does I can show equal numbers of comments on their failures. Was never sure why we created HTS's when we had CA units which while under SOCOM did in fact provide the same type of support as do HTSs.

All in all other sources of cultural awareness training/courses have produced as much impact as has HTS and at a cheaper cost factor.

The war on the ground is not being won by HTS the last time I checked.

One has to be impressed by the new twists and turns taken to "save" certain enablers in the coming years. One though needs in the years of smaller budgets to actually do cost benefit analysis as to the actual value add provided by these enablers. High six figure salaries does not alone justify the continuing of certain programs that in the end produce no value add to defeating an adaptive opponent.

I have seen no write ups on how HTS' defeated the Taliban, Haqqani or related groups in key regions in AFG.


Thu, 06/14/2012 - 12:48pm

Looks like I may spend all day interacting here so to avoid that I will make this brief. Shawnee Target is right on target (pun). I have had the distinct pleasure of dealing with munerous CA officers through SAMS and HTS and this is one of the most undervalued and misused branches in the business. CA and other branches and specialities have a lot to offer in the regional alignment process. There is no doubt. In fact, CF should probably start, even before going to HTS, going to SOF and asking them how they developed their regional expertise.

One thing I would argue though is that HTS is unique in offering integrated social scientists, engages in individual replacement, is solely focused on developing cultural knowledge, and is often in coutnry for years developing knowledge. So these benefits need to leveraged into a comprehensive regional alignment plan.

Now I am leaving this site for a while before I get dragged in further but thank you everyone for taking time to respond to my missive.


Thu, 06/14/2012 - 12:40pm


Your comments are well taken. I am absolutely proposing a synergy between social scientists and the Army and not a replacement of Army forces developing their own deep knowledge. It just seems to me that HTS should have the facilities to speed up and beef up the process of inculcating willing Army soldiers on their way toward developing region, country, and sub-national expertise.

HTS itself is a synergistic mix of Army reserve officers and social scientists. Each HTT has both and HTS has developed a fairly robust educational program. I myself collaboratively teach every class I am assigned here at SAMS with a seminar leader, green-suiter. I could not imagine a better way to teach mid-level officers. I learn quickly and stay current, at least partially, through this collaborative experience. The green-suiter helps to translate the theoretical into the practical for the class and for me as well. I will be the last one to argue that social scientists in a vacuum are the answer to pretty much anything.

Finally, you are completely correct to point out this is no replacement for a good strategy or even good operational art. I see this sort of cultural expertise feeding into the development of both but if this is all the Army is doing, then it is not enough. Politicians need to know this as well. All too often a social scientist or intellectual contractor walks through the door with THE answer and politicians and key military leaders are waiting to bite into the hook they are being sold (Bruce Bueno De Mesquita can predict the future through statistics--really?). In contrast, I am constantly searching for an answer or at least a way to make the Army more adapatable and efficient. I would never claim to have THE answer to pitch to anyone.

Finally, and as a little teaser, I am simultaneously happy with and a bit uncomfortable with the human domain concept. I am writing currently on this topic in part in response to an excellent article GENs Socolick and Grigsby put out in Army magazine. At first, I was firmly behind the human domain concept but now after reading the article I think that "domain" is too constricting and leads to an unecessary narrowing of the concept and its applicability to war.

I have great respect for GEN Socolick through my interaction with numerous SAMS students who have worked for him and I have a direct admiration for GEN Grigsby as he was one of the best leaders and mentors I have ever worked for while he was director of SAMS so it is difficult for me to even slightly criticize their work and again I am not certain I am correct but I still feel the need to respond if for no other reason to engender debate and test the validity of the concept. Who knows, this might be the thing that gets the ball rolling in solidifying the sixth domain of war.


Thu, 06/14/2012 - 12:39pm

That is a most excellent insight! DM's comment about strategy is right there too. Our people were not prepared for what they would face in Afghanistan and Iraq which is to say our political, military and, I suppose, business/media leaders did not do their prep work.

Scottjk's comment about maintaining the Empire is on target. We are moving our military into the African continent on a reflex I think. The USA, compared to Europe and China, have few business interests in AFRICA. Does anyone realize how big the continent is? Yet again we are paving the way for US business with the US military.

I don't know what US strategy is these days, really. Are we going to let Europe go bankrupt as we turn toward Asia, Africa? Are we going to take care of the many infrastructure and people (Vets for one thing) woes we have here? The only clarity, besides SOCCOM's tasking, is that Russia and China remain as the US endgame...Where is George C. Mashall?

Shawnee Target

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 12:30pm

I agree whole-heartedly with Dave's comments on policy, planning, and strategy, and I can appreciate Dan's points - I'd also like to point out that what is missing from the discussion are the capabilities the Army already has that it can leverage without growing additional force structure or DAC positions (which we can't pay for right now).

While the Army is about seven years too late, it's growing the 85th CA Brigade, an active-duty brigade designed to support conventional forces (BCTs). Historically, CA support to conventional forces over the last 10 years has been provided primarily by USACAPOC with the exception of initial entry operations and the 2007 "surge" in Iraq. Each battalion in the 85th CA BDE (growth ends in FY15) will be regionally aligned, and personnel receive the same aptitude screening, language, and regionally-oriented training that personnel assigned to the 95th CA BDE(A)receive (assigned to USASOC). I think there's ample evidence to suggest that the HTS was born out of the failure of the USAR CA units to provide functional specialist capability (as advertised) and adequate tactical CA support to BCTs early on in OIF and OEF. The JUONS in 2006, it can be argued, articulated a sound concept because the USAR failed to maintain the appropriate level of civilian expertise in the CA functional specialist positions. While there is a lot of work being done to address this self-inlficted capability gap, the USAR and USACAPOC cannot be solely to blame; over the last 10 years, the operational demand to fill battle rosters trumped proper talent management. Bottom line is, if you don't do your job, somebody else will.

Most of the COCOMs still do not even know that an active component CA Brigade is building, with the first two companies set to deploy very soon. Mission requirements documents have to developed at the COCOMs, which circles back to Dave's point on planning and strategy. If you're TSCP isn't focused, coordinated, and tiered right, then re-examined periodically to assess its effectiveness - it doesn't matter how spectacular you're cultural expertise or language skills are.

We've raised two to three generations of future battalion, brigade, and division commanders who believe CA = CERP, and that success in an operational environment where humain domain considerations are paramount is measured by the total dollars thrown into host nation physical infrastructure projects.

In the fiscal tarpit we're currently in, why not gain as much synergy as we can with what we have by looking at actions like combining the current HTS structure with the 85th CA BDE, to provide regionally-aligned BCTs the best possible support? The capabilities exist - our senior leaders need to know what they are, understand them, and provide guidance on how to employ them - which should drive policy, plans, and strategy.

This is not an either/or problem - (CA vs HTS) - I propose that the Army takes a look at a synergistic approach to the Chief's guidance based on what we already possess, and have funded to build.

Scott Kinner

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 11:30am

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Dave - a very valid cautionary note, and a cautionary note worth sounding in an era where the military must look to how it can work with its ways within the limitations of the means and ends it is given.

I for one am not enamored with regional alignment of language and culture. I am enamored with an old adage - good squads make good platoons and companies. If you don't have a lot of money or resources you invest heavily in the intellectual capital and the basic building blocks of your structure - so when both crisis and resources come, you can leverage them effectively.

You save money, not by over specialization or trying to save "a little bit of everything" but on generalization and excellence in core competencies.

Regionalization may be a way to do "culture on the cheap" but when I read this piece I am reminded a bit of the soccer mom approach to resource management - everyone gets a trophy. In the real world you must accept risk and inefficiencies in some places to mitigate risk and gain efficiency where it really matters.

The Naval Services have a history of crisis response throughout the world - and they've done a decent job by focusing on core competencies, not on creating cultural experts. Showing up with food in hand, or the ability to kill the local bad guy and then leave is more important to the average world citizen then demonstrating you've mastered the vagaries of their ethnic sub-culture. Foreign militaries are more happy to have access to training and resources than they are to listen you speak pleasantly in their language.

The cultural awareness that some advocates feel we should heavily resource is just not necessary for the majority of work the joint force is called to do - unless we're saying that our military should be focusing on nation building, maintaining the empire, and otherwise "influencing" people to do what we want them to which case resources should be focused on a few specialists and the general purpose force left to its core mission.

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 9:29am

One caveat and cautionary note:

It is interesting now how enamored everyone is becoming with regional alignment language and culture. But NONE of that is a replacement for poor strategy and campaign planning. Every mistake of the GWOT can likely be traced to some aspect of poor (or even non-existent) strategy and to some extent poor campaign planning. There existed plenty of experts who had plenty of good advice but those developing and executing the strategy and campaign plans did not seem to pay attention - or did not respect their advice - perhaps because it did not fit their preconceived notions of how they thought we should be doing things.

But the bottom line is that language and culture, especially on an industrial scale, are no silver bullets and cannot take the place of good strategy or fix poor strategy.


Thu, 06/14/2012 - 8:42am

HTS is in a world of hurt, actually. Budget reductions and layoffs are in the works. COCOM's are seeking their own capabilities outside HTS. Harvard and Georgetown have received letters from an HTS subcontractor, Aerotek, seeking to recruit from those universities. That's fine but the school's faculty and students are in an uproar. That's not to mention the AAA which has warned students off (particularly with a lot of loan debt) the program. Finally there is this information located at Pravda, Cryptome and elsewhere on recent developments in the program. Unfortunately there is more to come on the lousy news front. There are some people in HTS who do a stand-up job, of course, but, according to HTS's own internal studies, not many.…

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 06/14/2012 - 7:40am

It is good to see a discussion of and respect for the importance of the Human Domain (vice human terrain!).  Excerpt:

"According to GEN Odierno and Secretary McHugh, “[t]hese imperatives drive a set of coordinated actions the Army will take to support the eleven missions outlined in the President and Secretary of Defense’sSustaining U. S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”  Two near-term actions that the Army plans to take in support of the eleven missions are Train for Operational Adaptability and Regionally Align Forces.  The former action keys on building capability to operate in a complex environment with an emphasis on the Human Domain."

Though I agree with the first sentence from the below excerpt I take some exception to the second and third.  I think living and working within a foreign cultural is optimal and I would not put all my eggs in the "social scientists" basket though I grant that I think he is making the argument that there is synergy that can be gained from both.  I just do not want anyone to get he idea that we can replace that local knowledge and paramount respect for culture with reliance on social scientists.  We have to invest in our people and give those that have the aptitude and desire to live and work this way the opportunity to do so.

"As more emphasis is placed on advise and assist missions, like the U. S. Special Forces mission against Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, cultural expertise will become paramount.  But gaining deep country knowledge solely from living and working within a foreign culture is sub-optimal.  There is a better, multi-pronged effort that can create sharper and more agile expertise with little to no additional cost. "