ANSER | 1996: Rwanda: A Case Study in ANSER Diversification
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1996: Rwanda: A Case Study in ANSER Diversification

Andy Harris, an analyst in the International Security Division of Analytic Services, boarded a United Nations helicopter headed for Rwanda on November 1, 1995. Eighteen months had passed since, as Andy put it in his notes from the trip, Rwanda was caught in a “spasm of violence that has few rivals in modern times.”

It was a fact-finding delegation that Andy was embarking on, with a small, wildly diverse team that included a RAND analyst, a senior member of the American Bar Association who was concerned with the Rwanda war crimes tribunal, and a publisher of several local newspapers in Southern California. The team would spend 10 days reviewing two peacekeeping operations: first, the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, then after a flight to the other side of the continent, the UN Verification Mission in Angola.

ANSER had established “seed work” with the UN through the company’s Counterproliferation and Regional Security sector that year. The distribution yielded a literal network of ANSER contacts in multiple organizations: the UN Peacekeeping Organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees, the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, and the UN World Food Program, among others.

When Andy Harris visited Rwanda that November, one of the places he went was a refugee transit camp—one of the beneficiaries of the High Commission for Refugees, which ANSER was then supporting—on the Rwanda-Zaire border. Few in ANSER would ever have such passage: going to a far-off field being touched by ANSER work, to actually see what ANSER’s work was doing.

One year later, in the fall of 1996, Andy headed back to Central Africa, along with several other members of ANSER ISD’s “international team,” to provide surge support to the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). The DHA was responsible for coordinating relief agencies in the field during humanitarian emergencies. ANSER would help coordinate and plan, as well as innovate technical support tools for, the UN efforts to mitigate the overwhelming collective of refugee emergencies happening in Rwanda, Zaire, and the surrounding countries.

The ISD crew, later known as ANSER’s Humanitarian Assistance Planning team, ended up working nonstop in Kigali, Rwanda, to help plan support for a relief operation that saved thousands of lives. Their efforts also contributed to a more effective reintegration of the refugees into Rwanda. Early the following year, ANSER would recognize the team with an Excellence Award for their work.

Other ANSER work for the UN in 1996 included finalizing a DHA database of military and civil defense assets and associated parts for disaster management. ANSER also worked with the UN World Food Program to develop a decision-making tool for tracking the program’s nonfood assets.

The latter work galvanized ANSER leadership to infuse the team’s efforts in late 1996 with funds from the Independent Research and Development program, in order to create an automated proprietary planning instrument called the Humanitarian Assistance Requirements Tool (HART). The HART would equip the disaster relief community to consistently generate measurable assessments of the severity of natural and manmade disasters. Through these assessments, they could determine water, food, sanitation, shelter, and medical aid requirements as well as plan more efficient and effective responses. The HART was soon completed and later applied successfully to UN relief activities in Rwanda.

In a year when diversification was still a high priority for ANSER, a pursuit that included such fields as information technology and international space, it is difficult to imagine how the company’s work in 1996 could have gotten any more diversified than the fields of Rwanda.