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Army’s Human Terrain System needs to be buried once and for all
The American Anthropological Association is profoundly disturbed to learn the U.S. Army misled Congress and taxpayers when it supposedly dismantled its Human Terrain System (HTS), a controversial battlefield program, in 2014. New information has now come to light that shows the Army has not disbanded the program and is looking to expand it. AAA calls on the Army to immediately disband the Human Terrain System.
In 2008, the AAA took a leadership position among social science organizations in questioning the ethics and effectiveness of HTS, which sought to embed social scientists in combat units to help with military planning decisions. In addition to its fundamentally misguided design, the $725 million HTS program was plagued by accusations of fraud and sexual misconduct. Furthermore, the program violates AAA’s principles of professional responsibility. When the Army finally announced the program had been put to rest, AAA applauded its decision and expressed the expectation that any future collaborations with social scientists would adhere to well established principles of ethics and sound research design. The Army’s failure to live up to its word does a disservice to the American public.
The fact is that when social science research is done at gun point, with researchers surrounded by armed combatants, it is coercive, professionally irresponsible, and highly unlikely to yield reliable and accurate results. AAA strongly urges the Army to reconsider its decision and preserve the strategic positioning of “maintaining the higher ground.”
The final report of the AAA's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities is available here.
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Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with more than 10,000 members, is the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists. The Association is dedicated to advancing human understanding and tackling the world’s most pressing problems.