Its name was the Human Terrain System, what USA Today labels a "controversial battlefield anthropology program" supposedly shut down by the US Army in 2014 after allegations of racism, sexual harassment, and funny business with time sheets, among other issues. Or so its demise was believed: The initiative—which embedded social scientists with combat units to help them avoid pointless battles and boost local aid efforts, and which cost $725 million since 2007—was apparently never shut down at all, yet the Army seemed content to let it appear as if it were, according to Army files and an anonymous DoD official. One person outraged about this development: California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the Armed Services Committee who calls the revelation "absolutely astonishing." "Even if … the program was never killed, the Army was happy with members of Congress and the scientific community thinking and believing it was killed," he says. "The Army is evidently OK with taking people for fools."
Other issues the program was plagued by: commanders who didn't take scientist recommendations seriously and a condemnation from the American Anthropological Association. In 2015, the Army said the program had been shut down the previous year, noting there "was no longer a requirement for HTS teams in theater." But a look at Army documents by USA Today found the focus of the program had simply changed from experts in the field to those based at Kansas' Fort Leavenworth, and it rebranded itself the Global Cultural Knowledge Network. Plus there's a paper trail showing Leavenworth officials wanted critics (including Hunter) to think the program had been killed, including a memo with instructions on how to handle "Evil People Questions" about the program. The "reborn" initiative now runs on a $1.2 million yearly budget and employs nine—and as a "program of record," it could be funded for many more years. Read the full investigation here. (Read more US Army stories.)