Salil Puri and Blake Whitaker are PSYOP personnel and consultants with the Culper Group, an organization that provides training and consulting services to corporate and government clients. Mr. Puri earned a Bachelor’s in History, Psychology, Middle Eastern Studies, and Government, and a Master’s in Security Policy. Dr. Whitaker earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, completing a PhD focusing on post-colonial African conflict. These opinions are the authors’ own, and do not reflect the opinions of the US Army or the Department of Defense. The authors can be reached via [email protected].

If it weren’t so troubling, the irony behind the U.S. Army’s latest embarrassment would be hilarious. On April Fool’s Day of this year the Army released “ATP 3-24.3, Cultural and Situational Understanding”: a horribly written document chock-full of cultural faux pas and offensive language. If the comedic geniuses behind Range 15 had scripted this entire scenario purposefully, they probably couldn’t have done it better.

Criticism of the publication was so profound, the Army, as slow-moving as it is, decided to withdraw the ATP just a month after its release. One can assume that somewhere at the Combined Arms Center, fingers are crossed and people are wishing this whole fiasco would just go away. Let’s hope it doesn’t. The Army can’t get better without a lot of introspection.

This debacle gives America a rare insight into some of the critical institutional problems that continue to plague the Army when it comes to sophisticated efforts requiring academic consideration. These are problems that persist despite nearly 15 years of complex conflict that has demanded thoughtful and educated responses. Civilian criticism of the manual has focused on the fact that it is largely plagiarized, with some attention given to the sources it relies on, such as books of a homophobic and evangelical bent. These observations only scratch the surface.