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« The Cybernetic Way of Warfare at the ICA, 23 Feb | Main | Wildfire in Australia »

Nationalizing the Human Terrain System?

Editor's Note: CTlab has covered the human terrain system extensively (though not as much as the cousins at Wired's Danger Room - but they get paid to do what they do...). For background on HTS, read more here...

According to the latest reports by John Stanton (thanks for letting me know, John!), it looks like the HTS is being "nationalized". While John's report has a lot of quotes in it, including an email from BAE, many of them appear to reflect rumours running around inside the HTS. If this is the case, then there are some serious implications for the program.

As of 8:00AM Monday morning, 9 February, the US federal government made a move to make all Human Terrain Team jobs federal positions. BAE was never notified in advance and received notification at about the same time as employees. This is a major pay cut [for us] and you would not believe how much. I was making six figures (USD) with the opportunity to make much more when I got to Iraq. Now I drop to five figures and with my cap as a government employee I will not make much more. But a social scientist with absolutely no experience will still be making the six figure amount! We will now all be labeled as Intelligence Analysts and that includes analysts, research managers, social scientists and team leaders. Many of us can't afford to quit because of financial obligations. Social Scientists in the program are torn now because they can't take a position that says Intelligence Analyst as a job description.

This one quote captures many of the problems I can see with nationalizing the HTS, and there are three that I want to highlight.

First, this appears to be coming out of the blue with no prior notification to anyone. Indeed, if the report is accurate, then it appears as if the action abrogates current contracts, possibly via a force majeur clause. What does such and action say about the government that does this?

Second, and I am basing this on an interpretation of the quote above which I assume to be coming from a non-social scientist, it appears as if the social scientists and the (ex-?)military members of the HTTs will be on completely different pay grades. Not being one to swear in public (private is another matter as my friends know ;-) ), I can only say WTF?!? Is someone on the nationalizing end of the HTS attempting to destroy it? I cannot imagine anything better calculated to cause friction in a close team than having people with 20 years of experience being paid a fraction of what people with 1-2 years of experience are getting paid.

The final point I want to highlight is the possible name change of all members to Intelligence Analyst. What dimwit thought that up? Whoever they are, they need to learn something about how many social scientists view the HTS. Even the social scientists, especially Anthropologists, who support the general concept of the HTS are probably going to be thinking twice about joining if that goes through, and for very good reasons.

Now, having said all that, let me also point out that I really believe that the only way such a program will work efficiently in the long run is if it is organic to the military. Contradiction? Nope. My problems with the nationalization of the HTS (if it is happening) have to do with the process of nationalization.

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