The Army claimed in 2015 it had finally shuttered a social science program fraught with fraud, but documents indicate the service lied. Not only is the program very much alive, but it may actually be growing.
An anonymous defense official told USA Today that even though Army officials testified before Congress the anthropology program known as the Human Terrain System (HTS) had ended in 2014, the program is most definitely still active and has merely shifted its objectives. Instead of deploying social scientists in the field, experts are stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, blasted the Army for pulling the wool over legislators’ eyes.
“It’s absolutely astonishing that the Army wants to convince itself that it never killed HTS after it was publicly acknowledged that the program was done,” GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter said. “Even if true, that the program was never killed, the Army was happy with members of Congress and the scientific community thinking and believing it was killed. The Army is evidently OK with taking people for fools.”
One internal memo shows the Army specifically trying to mislead Hunter, with an adviser mentioning, “work clearly needs to be done to, if not change Congressman Hunter’s mind, then at least move him into the neutral category for future endeavors.”
HTS pulls in about $1.2 million annually and employs several contractors, civilians and officers.
HTS initially sent over linguists and social scientists to Afghanistan to help mitigate the cultural barriers between U.S. troops and local Afghans. The program, which began in 2007 and has since cost the Pentagon over $725 million, suffered allegations of fraud and racism, as well as allegations of sexual harassment. Most commanders apparently disregarded all reports.
Moreover, social scientists aiding counterinsurgency operations caused a tremendous uproar in the anthropology community. A group of anthropologists forwarded several arguments in opposition to the project, the first of which was that anthropologists elsewhere would be treated like spies. The second argument said the military value of anthropological findings is dubious. The third argument claimed that HTS was essentially a repetition of past imperialist practices.
The American Anthropological Association soundly condemned HTS.
Hunter is still pushing the Army to answer why it mislead Congress.
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