At the Movies

By Kate Brannen / January 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A new movie takes a close look at the Human Terrain System -- a Pentagon program that sends social scientists, former military personnel and reservists to combat zones to work alongside American troops.

According to the movie's Web site, the film tells two stories: one political, the other personal. The first takes a broad look at the program, examining the sometimes-troubled collaboration between American academics and the U.S. military.

It also tells the personal story of a Human Terrain member, Michael Bhatia, who died while embedded with the Army in Afghanistan.

"Simultaneously a road-trip into the heart of the war machine and a critical investigation of academic collaboration with the military, ‘Human Terrain’ traces a new ‘revolution in military affairs’ after U.S. policies based on virtual technologies and virtuous ideologies fail to create peace, and foot soldiers are left to clean up the mess," reads a movie description.

The film features interviews with Steve Fondacaro, HTS project manager; Montgomery McFate, HTS co-founder along with Fondacaro; Amb. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and many other key players in the development of the program.

The Human Terrain System is being considered as part of the Army's capability package for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. That package is intended to combine equipment originally developed as part of the Future Combat Systems program with additional capabilities that meet urgent requirements from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final makeup of that package should be revealed in next week's unveiling of the FY-11 defense budget request. In addition to the Human Terrain System, other candidates include persistent surveillance technologies, the Advanced Precision Mortar Initiative, the Ground Soldier System and cultural and language training.