Uncategorized

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-03-15

  • Human terrain story filed and filed and filed. And there’s a real slam against HTS in Military Review. #
  • Marine Major Ben Connable in Military Review on Human Terrain System (HTS): “All our eggs in a broken basket” http://bit.ly/tNOHt #
  • I’m not at FOSE this week-too many other things today. It would be nice if someone posted the Kundra keynote for folks stuck working. #
  • So, did the FBI raid the CTO office in DC because they knew Kumar was at FOSE and wouldn’t be there? #
  • RT @SBFirst100Days: Tech nominee’s office targeted in bribery sting: http://is.gd/n4mj #

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Defense Department

Is HTS headed for end-of-lifecycle?

I’ve filed my story on the Human Terrain System–I’ll link to it when it’s published. But I filed just as some interesting related news popped up. The Wired Danger Room blog reported on a Military Review article by Marine Corps Major Ben Connable, former lead on the Marine Corps’ Cultural Intelligence Program, which ripped into HTS as:

…a quick-fix layer of social science expertise and contracted reachback capability to combatant staffs. This “build a new empire” proposal is based on the assumption that staffs are generally incapable of solving complex cultural problems on their own. The HTS approach is inconsistent with standing doctrine and ignores recent
improvements in military cultural capabilities.

This may be, as someone commented on Danger Room, an interesting example of interservice rivalry. But it’s also a sign that some in DOD agree there’s questionable utility in sending social scientists out into the field in camouflage, undertaking operations that would otherwise fall under the realm of Civil Affairs. Interestingly enough, the MAP-HT system that’s being developed by the Army’s CERDEC was demonstrated to the Army’s Civilian Affairs and Psychological Operations Command as well, and they’re in line to get the same gear. CAPOC also has access to the TIGR collection gear already.

So, the question is, will the HTS program fade away, or fade into background as a supporting element of CAPOC ops, or will it continue?

Dan Wolfe, the technical director for the HTS program, has a grand vision of integrating all of the sources of human terrain data into an HTS knowledge management center down at Oyster Point in Newport News, using the facilities built for the Joint IED Defeat Organization. And work is underway to create the Subject-Matter Expert network (SMEnet). If that vision is realized, HTS may become institutionalized within DOD, either with or without the HTTs, as a clearinghouse for all human terrain knowledge.

But how long a life does JIEDDO have?

Also, the Associated Press has begun a series on Michael Bhatia, a Human Terrain Team member who died in Khost Province, Afghanistan. Three HTT members have died since the HTTs were deployed starting in 2007. The article by Adam Geller is a deep dive into the life of the HTS.

On a side note, I heard back from Dr. William Stuart at UMd — see the updated post–and he corrected some of the interpretations I made of what he said. (Thanks, Bill–open source and peer review’s one of the advantage of open journalism practices.)

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Uncategorized

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-03-08

  • Interesting day. I interviewed the technology director for the Human Terrain System program, and a vice president at BAE about the program. #
  • And yes, C4ISR Journal is a magazine. #
  • I am not writing about basketball shoes. #
  • Headed to the Dropkick Murphys concert with my son–a Christmas gift from him. Seems a little self-serving, but who am I to complain? 🙂 #

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Other Federal Agencies, People

DC CTO to be White House CIO

Just reported for Internetnews :

DC CTO named as Obama Administration’s CIO

The Obama administration has named Vivek Kundra to be the the first-ever White House-level chief information officer.

Kundra is currently chief technology officer for Washington, DC’s city government, and has risen in the public eye because of his innovative approaches to managing the city’s technology projects. As the first-ever Federal Chief Information Officer, he’ll be responsible for managing the entire federal government’s technology portfolio and budget, and overseeing its enterprise architecture.

I’ll link when the story is live.

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People, tech

Human Terrain System’s transitional pains

I’ve conducted a number of interview on the Army’s HTS this week, for a story I’m writing for C4ISR Journal. While that article will focus on the technical aspects of the program, which I’ll review briefly here, the program gets most of its attention from the controversy surrounding the idea of sending social scientists to assist the military in its mission by providing actionable sociographic and cultural information — in other words, using applied social science to reduce conflict with the locals in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to better interact with them in negotiations, interviews, and general interactions so there’s less likelihood of making people want to support insurgency.

There’s also something of a bump over how the program is handling its key assets–the people in the field. The Army unilaterally decided in the last month, using the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with Iraq as the reason, to convert the Human Terrain Team members from contractors to government employees. The deadline for converting was originally February 18, and was extended to yesterday. It’s not clear whether those who chose not to convert are going to be cut loose right now; I’m working on reaching the HTS program manager.

The way it’s been handled has not exactly given many of the people involved the warm-and-fuzzies. Chuck Thomas, the vice president and general manager for Systems Engineering Solutions at BAE Systems, told me, in regards to the changes:

I won’t say there hasn’t been some consternation inside of our own organization, but no real pushback. By that, I mean from the start the management here made the decision that we’ll support the government with whatever it wants to do on this, if that’s what will help war-fighting. And we have–if you’ve heard anything, it’s been at the individual employee level, which is only natural, because ultimately there was a lot of churn and ambiguity and uncertainty about what it meant for everyone, for each person, and that. . .but at the management level, the goverment told us what they wanted to do, we saluted and said we’ll do it. Didn’t like it much, but we’d do it.

All contractors in Iraq are facing the same problem — there’s uncertainty over how they’ll be treated by the Iraqi government

The change is for HTT members both in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has had its own SOFA agreement for some time now. Thomas said he believes the vast majority of the HTT members will take the conversion, because, he said, they’re in the program for “altruistic reasons” more than the money — which may be a good thing, as the move from contractor status to a government employee pay slot between GS-12 and GS-15 may come as something of a shock.

On the technology side, HTS has been trailing behind its deployment. Initially, the only way for the HTT members — the majority of whom do not have security clearances, just like the majority of the troops deployed in Central Asia–could only file field reports using email. The program has since moved to using TIGR for collection, and Microsoft Sharepoint servers for aggregation of data at the Brigade Combat Team level.

That doesn’t exactly provide much integration of data, and in the past it’s been difficult to share data beyond the brigade level. Information from HTTs can be pushed out to soldiers through TIGR, but the long term goal is to deploy a system called MAP-HT to the human terrain teams and to civil affairs units. The problem — the system that MAP-HT is based on is the Distributed Common Ground System-A workstation, and it’s currently a classified system, working only on SIPRnet, the DOD’s classified network. The MAP-HT development team at the Army’s CERDEC is working toward a declassified version of the system, which will allow for analysis and fusion of information pulled in from TIGR.

MAP-HT won’t be out in the field as the Afghanistan “surge” starts. It’s entering limited user testing this summer, and if all goes well it will start being deployed by November.

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Defense Department, People, tech

Human Terrain System's transitional pains

I’ve conducted a number of interview on the Army’s HTS this week, for a story I’m writing for C4ISR Journal. While that article will focus on the technical aspects of the program, which I’ll review briefly here, the program gets most of its attention from the controversy surrounding the idea of sending social scientists to assist the military in its mission by providing actionable sociographic and cultural information — in other words, using applied social science to reduce conflict with the locals in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to better interact with them in negotiations, interviews, and general interactions so there’s less likelihood of making people want to support insurgency.

There’s also something of a bump over how the program is handling its key assets–the people in the field. The Army unilaterally decided in the last month, using the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with Iraq as the reason, to convert the Human Terrain Team members from contractors to government employees. The deadline for converting was originally February 18, and was extended to yesterday. It’s not clear whether those who chose not to convert are going to be cut loose right now; I’m working on reaching the HTS program manager.

The way it’s been handled has not exactly given many of the people involved the warm-and-fuzzies. Chuck Thomas, the vice president and general manager for Systems Engineering Solutions at BAE Systems, told me, in regards to the changes:

I won’t say there hasn’t been some consternation inside of our own organization, but no real pushback. By that, I mean from the start the management here made the decision that we’ll support the government with whatever it wants to do on this, if that’s what will help war-fighting. And we have–if you’ve heard anything, it’s been at the individual employee level, which is only natural, because ultimately there was a lot of churn and ambiguity and uncertainty about what it meant for everyone, for each person, and that. . .but at the management level, the goverment told us what they wanted to do, we saluted and said we’ll do it. Didn’t like it much, but we’d do it.

All contractors in Iraq are facing the same problem — there’s uncertainty over how they’ll be treated by the Iraqi government

The change is for HTT members both in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has had its own SOFA agreement for some time now. Thomas said he believes the vast majority of the HTT members will take the conversion, because, he said, they’re in the program for “altruistic reasons” more than the money — which may be a good thing, as the move from contractor status to a government employee pay slot between GS-12 and GS-15 may come as something of a shock.

On the technology side, HTS has been trailing behind its deployment. Initially, the only way for the HTT members — the majority of whom do not have security clearances, just like the majority of the troops deployed in Central Asia–could only file field reports using email. The program has since moved to using TIGR for collection, and Microsoft Sharepoint servers for aggregation of data at the Brigade Combat Team level.

That doesn’t exactly provide much integration of data, and in the past it’s been difficult to share data beyond the brigade level. Information from HTTs can be pushed out to soldiers through TIGR, but the long term goal is to deploy a system called MAP-HT to the human terrain teams and to civil affairs units. The problem — the system that MAP-HT is based on is the Distributed Common Ground System-A workstation, and it’s currently a classified system, working only on SIPRnet, the DOD’s classified network. The MAP-HT development team at the Army’s CERDEC is working toward a declassified version of the system, which will allow for analysis and fusion of information pulled in from TIGR.

MAP-HT won’t be out in the field as the Afghanistan “surge” starts. It’s entering limited user testing this summer, and if all goes well it will start being deployed by November.

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