About this blog...

I am a former leader of a Human Terrain Team in Iraq. My intent with this blog was to identify relevant, open-source materials on Iraqi culture, society, politics, religion and economics - just about anything on or about the Iraqi population in general.

I am continuing the blog now only sporadically, as a means of information distribution in support of efforts to improve a vital program hamstrung by failures in execution.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Provide your feedback

A few days ago I posted a copy of our detailed statement to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), where we describe program shortcomings in recruiting, retention, training and execution. The following few days were a visceral reminder that many others have experienced some of these shortcomings first hand--both as HTS members and customers--and are interested in corroborating or expanding on them in detail.

For those interested in doing so that haven't already reached out to us, you can provide completely anonymous input to at this website, or email your input to this address: info--AT--pogo--DOT--org.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

HTS in Hindsight - Newsweek and POGO

Most of you should be able to guess that I shut this site down (or at least stopped posting) upon my return from Iraq in January. [That last post was just an email sent to my entire address book, but I had forgotten that I had enabled Blogger's helpful post-by-email function to get around Army web-censors.]

It turns out, though, that even out of Iraq, I'm not quite through with HTS. In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that my fiancée, Zenia Helbig, was released from HTS after repeated instances of identifying (and trying to fix) problems associated with the implementation of the program. However, since the pretext for firing her was a security violation, it has stymied her entire career in government before it could start.

Now, the only way to clear her name has been to demonstrate the veracity of our criticisms of HTS, and make the case that demonstrates that she was terminated for voicing these criticisms. I describe these developments not only to explain our active cooperation with the article in this week's Newseek, but by way introducing this statement that we submitted last month to the Project on Government Oversight. After appeals to her Congressional Representative and to the Army's Inspector General were ignored without consideration, POGO seemed to be the next reasonable recourse. Their initial response has been very positive, and we are working with them now to build the case. This is from the introduction of the statement:
"Below, I highlight a number of concerns with the program that I raised to program management and my superiors at British Aerospace Systems (BAE). As an academic partaking in my first experience in government, I naively thought that my suggestions for correcting these problems would be welcomed. Instead I was alternately ignored and threatened, until being ultimately dismissed... It is important that one critical point, explained in the middle of this document, be highlighted upfront: The focal point of the current breakdown of the HTS program is a conflict of interests created by program management’s competing incentive structures–they cannot fulfill their oversight responsibilities over BAE’s numerous failures to fulfill their contractual responsibilities without arming critics seeking the cancellation of the entire program."
In the full text, we go on to describe failings in recruiting, retention, training, contracting practices and oversight.

Ultimately, we both still believe in the program and how important it is for it to succeed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Our intentions in raising these concerns while within HTS were always for the betterment of the program, and they remain so. The fact that clearing Zenia's name has become inextricably tied to this makes it more personal for us, but no more pressing.

For more back story, you can check out two previous posts from Noah Shachtman at Danger Room, Zenia's memo to Congress or her statement at the AAA conference. Stay tuned for more...