The Possible Retribution and Impossible Pragmatism of Catherine Halsey

With the release of the Kilo-5 Saga, many members of the fanbase seem to have completely forgotten the events that lead to the creation of the Spartan II-III projects and why they had to be done on children. “Is Dr Halsey Evil?” seems to be a common question. While I won’t dig into every event surrounding the Innies I will highlight the key points and tie them to Halsey. How she felt about the Insurrection and then the Spartan Program.


In 2491, a doctor by the name of Elias Carver presented his social-political findings to the Admiralty of the time. While  the math needed correcting, he did indeed show that if the outer colonies did not have a strict military presence a massive conflict would ensue. The Insurrection would officially start three years later in 2491 with the Callisto incident: A trade ship was stopped by the UNSC to search for contraband, with the crew skittish of UNSC presence (due to rumors from the Innies), an altercation broke out leaving the UNSC crew and 27 merchants dead. No contraband was discovered. An 18 year old Halsey would refine Carvers thesis by correcting his mathematics in 2510. After running 1,400 simulations and tweaking every variable only one conclusion was found. If the Innies were to get their hands on FTL capable ships – which could be turned into weapons – the conflict would be far more dire than Carver imagined. A civil war lasting 30 years with over 5 billion dead would be the minimum outcome. She took the corrected results to the Vice-Admiral to discover the UNSC already having knowledge of this – while they had came to the same conclusion, it had taken them over 3 years of research. ONI wanted Halsey to come to the same conclusion because they wanted her to help stop the Innies. It worked and she joined, but that would be 20 years later…


[The Assembly]

Ultimately the Insurrection and the Spartan Programs were engineered by a group of Ancient Human AI’s dubbed “The Assembly”. Their one goal was to insure the genetic stability of the human race (whatever variant) and that they continue to survive. Here are quotes from the Data Pads showing that the entire event was orchestrated by the Assembly to advance humanity. Later they note on prolonging the Human-Covenant war so humanity can gain more technologies. While being irrelevant to the current subject, you are now aware of how much control they truly had.

“ (Data Pad 5 ) << [48452-556-EPN644] is certainly motivated, but will he have what it takes to follow through with the opportunity when it presents itself? His submission to UNICOM will undoubtedly spark a renewed interest in the long dormant ORION. << << However, it is the opinion of the Majority that merely illuminating the path leading from [48452-556-EPN644’s] thesis back to ORION is unacceptable. Strong connectivity between a re-launch of ORION and viable solutions to the Carver Findings must be readily apparent. Which is to say: easy for our creators to see. << “

“(Datapad 7)

<< ORION, as it was originally implemented in 2321, was an important first step towards our primary goal. But its second incarnation was a stop-gap measure at best – a halfhearted attempt under stewardship of individuals unaccustomed to the rhythms of deep history. << << They relied too heavily on components that were imprecise, and not those which have allowed our creators to persevere for 200,000 years. This is not about the universal adoption of a single ideology – not about the Minority vs. the Majority. It is about ensuring the survival of the human species for the next 200,000 years. << << In all likelihood, ORION’s limited success can be attributed to [03529-24450-EN’s] diminished, though still functioning, compassion. Conversely, [10141-026-SRB4695’s] ruthlessness – which may be attributed to an undiagnosed, undocumented, or deliberately obfuscated chemical imbalance – was necessary for setting in motion the events that will eventually supply us with the optimal solution. In short, ORION was just the beginning. << “

“(Datapad 9)

<< 2525 >> [Minutes, strategy session, Assembly Minority] << It is the height of irresponsibility for the Majority to still claim the inception of the Spartan II program was somehow guided by providence. This body must accept SPARTAN II was merely the logical advancement of technologies vis-a-vis sociopolitical realities. Military applications always experience accelerated innovation during times of conflict – stewardship of said conflicts by this body notwithstanding. << << The fact that SPARTAN II reached full operational capacity less than a year before the conflict expanded beyond expected limits was entirely predictable if you scrutinize the relevant data. Luck had nothing to do with it. << << At the risk of destabilizing our current power-sharing agreement, I suggest the Majority leave metaphysics to our creators. << “ “ (Datapad 11)

<< 2526 >> >> A concession from the Majority to the Minority Keeping the SPARTANS focused on maintaining and/or reestablishing infrastructure is no longer prudent. The ODST, although based on the ORION model, should prove to be an adequate replacement. >> >> Although, by necessity, this redistribution of resources must be gradual, it is now the Majority opinion that redistribution is essential. SPARTANS represent a quantifiable concentration of coherence, and to this end they must be applied to the current difficulty as a fulcrum. >> << A concession from the Minority to the Majority Now, at last, the time has come for this Assembly to involve itself in the metaphysical. << “

The Datapads show that Halsey was nothing more than a pawn in a far larger game. Which brings issue to everyone trying to pin the projects on her, as if she didn’t have thousands of staff and monetary support from ONI. We see in Ghosts of Onyx, and later in Halo 4, that both Ackerson and Halsey had the same idea as the Assembly. To augment all of humanity to whatever extent. Post-war Humanity has the technology to do such a wonder but wouldn’t if it wasn’t for the Spartan-II project. [Innies] The year 2511 got off to a rocky start with the Insurrection detonating a nuke on Haven with the fallout spreading over the entire colony. Millions dead, more to die from the fallout, and birth defects were suspected to continue for generations to come. The Freedom and Liberation Party claimed responsibility and demanded that the CMA leave the system, though Haven was a planet sympathetic to the Insurrection cause. After being notified of an entire Colony sympathizes being nuked by the Innies, Halsey decided to get involved with ONI to find a solution to this madness. From the millions that died on new Haven, dozens would rise on Reach as Spartans.


Halsey Felt rather unsettled by the Orion program, but felt that it was a good idea despite its flaws which she sought to correct with the Spartan-II program. Orion candidates were far too old for safe genetic modification which lead to irreversible defects, degeneration, and PTSD. In addition to that, many shared sympathies with the Innies themselves and had to be incarcerated.

John undergoing augmentation

Augmenting children prior to puberty allowed the modifications to stick and greatly reduced the chance for defects. Even for those that did arise unlike the Orion soldiers, genetic damage wasn’t irreversible but time was needed for the technologies to advance a bit further. Indoctrinating the children over time and stressing their importance was needed so sympathies wouldn’t arise, though it is possible that there are more Spartans like Jorge who feel that the Innies are right in cause but not action. The Spartan-II program was officially named and based off the 300 Spartans that defended Greece at Thermopylae. Spartans were molded into warriors at the age of 6/7, which Halsey followed as well due to that being a reasonable age. Not too young and not too old. She noted the Spartans discarding unfit children after birth, comparing that to her genetic selection process which was needed to find the best candidates to further improve and had the best chance of taking the augmentations.



While there is a dark spot regarding the Spartan-II engagements with the Innies, we do know that they were greatly reduced because of them. If the Covenant didn’t appear, the Spartans would have eventually dismantled the Innies as a whole. It does not matter whether they were created to fight the Covenant or not, the point is we couldn’t have won without them. The Spartan-IIs effectively held major roles in reducing Innie attacks and ending the Covenant war.

Because of Halsey’s work, humanity survived two events that would have greatly reduced their population numbers while severely fracturing government systems which bind the race together. No other human has been so key to our survival as a race, and unlike the Spartan-III program we can easily see how greatly her Spartans contributed to the war.



Unlike what Kilo-5 wants to press, Halsey was not an unemotional monster that randomly created the Spartan-IIs for her own reasons. You are now aware of the circumstances that led to the creation of the Spartan-IIs, all engineered by an outside source, so I will now cast light on her personal emotions that weren’t shared to others often. Halsey’s journal starts with her questioning how she became involved with what would later be known as the Spartan-II program. She states that writing her thoughts on paper eases her mind and while she has had positive feelings about the work, dread is indeed a weighing emotion. Her thoughts in 2510 were that all of this was a pragmatic resolve to a troubling conflict, which it undeniably was. Later that year after Carver presented his findings in April, she pondered if there would be any price too high to pay upon joining ONI. That was 20 years before she actually started working on the Spartan-II project showing that there was skepticism from the start and that a great deal of time was needed for her to fully commit to the project. Next February, while reviewing the Orion program, she expressed her emotions on the project and where it was going. A comment made upon initial inspection was “unsettling” in regards to genetic modification. At the end of her inspection she states that more time to think is needed given that “My logic is sound,but ethical and moral ramifications linger” Another example showing that Halsey had been very much aware of the query her methods would receive, but was able to be pragmatic about them. 20 years later the bombing of Haven gave her the final push, expressing that: “THEY ARE INSANE. THEY MUST BE STOPPED. I HAVE TO PUT A STOP TO THIS.” Once colonies became targets for the Innies, as Carver predicted, Halsey knew that she had to act despite how she felt. While studying cloning technology for her AI matrix, Halsey noted the ethical repercussions of cloning full humans. “If we go down this path… copy these people – these children… there’s no retreat.” With this, and her speaking to the Admiral about initiating the next phase after researching clones, we know that ONI was indeed fully involved with the endeavor – not to mention that they were the ones to release the clones and provide Halsey with the equipment.


While examining some candidates first hand with Keyes she states: “I’m not sure that he has the long-range vision required to overcome the moral ambiguities of our mission.” This falls back to her first journal entry which states her approach would be the most pragmatic, despite the moral and ethical concerns. Halsey and others had to overcome these problems because they were aware of them not due to any sadistic nature.

You have been called upon to serve.

After rounding up the subjects in 2517, the next part was to explain why they were taken from their families and what was to be done with them. All of them indeed wanted to return home. Halsey states that “they deserve as much of the truth as we can stomach to give them”. With that, it is known many of the operatives clearly felt the pain of their actions and had to force themselves through, Halsey included. Some children had outright wondered if they were going to stop all of the fighting which is the flip-side Halsey also commented on later. That all of these children deserved more than an average life because of their intelligence. “Right or wrong,” the Spartan-II program gave them that. Later in 2517, Halsey received after-reports on the cloned replacements – again showing that ONI was fully involved with the action. She couldn’t bear to read the detailed reports elaborating on the parents suffering and the deaths of the clones. It is further written that she was being over-filled with emotion, far more than anticipated. In 2549, Halsey cloned herself to test out creating AIs, which she did without approval. Those that knew were trusted by her, and all of the equipment was hidden. Fully aware that the Mortal Dictata was broken (not for the first time) she picked herself due to 3rd generation AIs needing better material than the dead. Despite that, the ethics bothered her along with it being illegal. This wasn’t approved by ONI unlike the cloning of the Spartan-IIs. While meeting with the Spartan-IIs for REDFLAG, Halsey noted that she was extremely excited to see them again and expressed sadness towards those that were no longer alive. The meeting hit her hard, and if she didn’t speak to John prior, an emotional and sentimental comment would have slipped. Her feelings were stowed away because she wanted the Spartans to get their strength from her even if they didn’t need it then. Spartans respond to authority, not emotions. I’ll step away from her journal and give excerpts from the novels to further elaborate on the subject of the program and Halsey’s emotions. To further drive the nail that we have over ten years of lore stating time and time again, Halsey has indeed been conflicted and has her own personal thoughts on what she’s done. You do not have to read this right now, but any time you find yourself in an argument or want clarification, feel free to check this post. I am gathering the quotes from a PDF, and since my page numbers aren’t precise they aren’t given. But the knowledge is within the novels nonetheless, and those also using a PDF can search for these statements.

The Fall Of Reach

“She looked one last time at Number 117—at John. He was having so much fun, running and laughing. For a moment she envied the boy’s innocence; hers was long dead. Life or death, lucky or not, she was condemning this boy to a great deal of pain and suffering. But it had to be done.” “ We’re taking them on a mission ONI has been saving for the right crew and the right time. This is it.” “Yes, ma’am,” Mendez replied. “Tomorrow we see if all the pain they’ve been through has been worth it.”

“The truth has risks,” Déjà cautioned. “So do lies,” Dr. Halsey replied. “Any story fabricated to motivate the children—claiming their parents were taken and killed by pirates, or by a plague that devastated their planet—if they learned the truth later, they would turn against us.”

“It is a legitimate concern,” conceded Déjà, and then she consulted her tablet. “May I suggest selective neural paralysis? It produces a targeted amnesia—”

“A memory loss that may leak into other parts of the brain. No,” Dr. Halsey said, “this will be dangerous enough for them even with intact minds.”

Six years old . . . this was too much for them to digest. But she had to make them understand, explain it in simple terms that they could grasp.

Dr. Halsey took a tentative step forward. “You have been called upon to serve,” she explained. “You will be trained . . . and you will become the best we can make of you. You will be the protectors of Earth and all her colonies.”

A handful of the children sat up straighter, no longer entirely frightened, but now interested.

“This will be hard to understand, but you cannot return to your parents.”

“This place will become your home,” Dr. Halsey said in as soothing a voice as she could muster. “Your fellow trainees will be your family now. The training will be difficult. There will be a great deal of hardship on the road ahead, but I know you will all make it.”

Patriotic words, but they rang hollow in her ears. She had wanted to tell them the truth—but how could she? Not all of them would make it. “Acceptable losses,” the Office of Naval Intelligence representative had assured her. None of it was acceptable. The children rose—at the urging of their handlers. John 117 stood, but he kept his gaze on Dr. Halsey and remained stoic. Many of the subjects seemed stunned, a few had trembling lips—but none of them cried.

These were indeed the right children for the project. Dr. Halsey only hoped that she had half their courage when the time came.

“Keep them busy tomorrow,” she told Mendez and Déjà. “Keep them from thinking about what we’ve just done to them.”

“One side of the room was filled with floor-to-ceiling terminals that monitored the vital signs of the children—test subjects, she corrected herself.” “…..She winced at the veiled rebuke in the Admiral’s communiqué. He had never approved of her decision to work with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and made his disappointment with his star pupil evident every time she visited Hopeful.

It was hard enough to justify the morality of the course she was about to embark upon. Jeromi’s disapproval only made her decision more difficult.” “….She removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I’m sorry,” Déjà said. “I, too, had hoped there would be some new process to lower the risks.” Dr. Halsey sighed. “I have doubts, Déjà. I thought the reasons so compelling when we first started project SPARTAN. Now? I . . . I just don’t know.”

“I have been over the ONI projections of Outer Colony stability three times, Doctor. Their conclusion is correct: massive rebellion within twenty years unless drastic military action is taken. And you know the ‘drastic military action’ the brass would like. The SPARTANS are our only option to avoid overwhelming civilian losses. They will be the perfect pinpoint strike force. They can prevent a civil war.”

“Only if they survive to fulfill that mission,” Dr. Halsey countered. “We should delay the procedures. More research needs to be done. We could use the time to work on MJOLNIR. We need time to—”

“There is another reason to proceed expeditiously,” Déjà said. “Although I am loath to bring this to your attention, I must. If the Office of Naval Intelligence detects a delay in their prize project, you will likely be replaced by someone who harbors . . . fewer doubts. And regrettably for the children, most likely someone less qualified.”

“I hate this.” Dr. Halsey got up and strode to the fire exit. “And sometimes, Déjà, I hate you, too.” She left the observation room.” “John spotted Mendez and he struggled to sit up and salute, but failed. “I know this is one of the Chief’s exercises. But I don’t know what the twist is. Can you tell me, Dr. Halsey? Just this time? How do I win?”

Mendez looked away.

Dr. Halsey leaned closer to John as he closed his eyes and started to breathe deeply. “I’ll tell you how to win, John,” she whispered. “You have to survive.””

First Strike

“Dr. Halsey was only a civilian, but the Spartans had always accepted her authority…… She wondered if the Spartans viewed her as some sort of mother figure. As much as this notion amused her, she doubted that they viewed anyone outside their team as family. Not even her. “ “”What the hell was he up to?” she muttered. She felt her pulse quicken as she scoured his records. There were DNA profiles on each Spartan, and there were extensive files on the old flash clone techniques that ONI had used to replace the originals. Ackerson seemed especially interested in this aspect of the program. He had followed the medical records of the replacements as they grew up, succumbed to congenital diseases, and inevitably died. He even had the bodies retrieved and autopsies performed. Dr. Halsey’s stomach soured. It was her fault, in part, that these replacement children had died so young. They had never perfected flash cloning for an entire human. They had done it any- way thirty years ago because the Earth government was on the verge of falling apart… collapsing into a hundred civil wars. They had desperately needed the SPARTAN program. And of course, they had done it simply because they could. No matter the legitimacy of her reasons, she knew she had killed these children as sure as if she had shot them dead. “

“The Master Chief moved alongside her chair. His massive weight thudded through the thick deck plating. Two meters tall and half a ton of metal and somehow Dr. Halsey couldn’t help thinking of him occasionally as the same little boy she had stolen from his parents in Elysium City. No. John had changed. She hadn’t. She was the one who still carried the three-decade-old festering guilt. “

“Discovering how he survived is not what I wanted to discuss. It’s what happens next to Sergeant Avery Johnson.” She shut off her monitors and eased back into the chair. “I’ve prepared two separate reports on this for ONI Section Three. The first has all relevant data on my analysis and the possible technology to counter an initial Flood infestation. The second includes the source material: Private Jenkins’s and Sergeant Johnson’s mission logs and the Sergeant’s medical files.” She downloaded the reports onto two data crystals and ejected them from the port on the chair’s arm. She set the clear cubes on the tray and gestured for John to take them. “I leave it up to you which to deliver to Lieutenant Haverson.”

“Why would I withhold any data, Doctor?” the Master Chief asked and glanced at the crystals. Her eyes focused past him as she struggled to find the words to match her conflicting emotions. “For a long time I had thought that we had to sacrifice a few for the good of the entire human race.” She took a deep breath and let it go with a heavy sigh. “I have killed and maimed and caused a great deal of suffering to many people—all in the name of self-preservation.” Her steely blue gaze found him. “But now I’m not sure that philosophy has worked out too well. I should have been trying to save every single human life—no matter what it cost.”

Dr. Halsey pushed the tray bearing the data crystals toward the Master Chief. “If you give ONI the first report, they may be able to find a countermeasure for the Flood. Maybe. They would have a slightly better chance, however, if you give them the second report.” “Then I’ll give them the second report.” He picked up the crystal. “Which will murder Sergeant Johnson,” she said with a chill in her voice. “ONI will not be satisfied to take a sample of blood. They will dissect him to find out how he resisted the Flood. It will be a billion-to-one shot that they’ll ever replicate his unique medical conditions—but they’ll do it anyway.

They will kill him because the trade-off is worth it to them.” The Master Chief picked up the other crystal and then stared at them both lying in his gauntlet hand. “Is it worth it to you, John?” she asked. He curled his hand in a fist and held it close to his chest. “Why do you want me to make this choice?” “One last lesson. I’m trying to teach you something it’s taken me all my life to realize.” She cleared her throat of the lump thickening there. “I’m giving you the chance to make the decision that I thought I couldn’t make.”

“”Done,” Cortana said. The irritation at having been silenced for the last five minutes was like barbed wire in her voice. “What precisely was all that about? Teach the Master Chief a lesson? Giving him a choice? Save one man instead of billions?”

“Five days. It hadn’t seemed that long. They worked, they rested, they slept, and they waited. Dr. Halsey had taught them word games like twenty questions and simple cipher, at which they all became extremely proficient—so much so that she quickly stopped playing. Dr. Halsey was not a graceful loser. “

Ghost of Onyx “ Since Ackerson could not destroy her Spartan program, he had funded and recruited trainers for his own? It chilled her to think what shortcuts he might be taking and what he might be doing with his own private army of Spartans.

She looked back at Kelly’s unconscious form. Dr. Halsey couldn’t save her Spartans, they were already indoctrinated and on the front lines but she might be able to do something about these new, as yet theoretical, SPARTAN-IIIs.”

“ Her conclusion was irrefutable.

The UNSC, her Spartans, all the people she admired, would struggle against the inevitable. It was human instinct. But it was wrong. They could never win this war. They could only survive it. And then, only if they were very lucky.

So it was up to her to take the only logical action: run.

John and the other Spartans would never turn away from a fight, but she might be able to convince these other Spartans, trick them if necessary, into surviving.

They were humanity’s last chance to endure the coming darkness. “

“She closed her eyes, suddenly weary, and then patted his gauntleted hand. “It is good to see you alive.” She couldn’t let slip exactly how happy she was to see Kurt. One of her Spartans come back from the dead, it was a small victory in a war of endless defeats. It redoubled her determination to save them all from the growing threats. But she had to maintain control. Spartans responded to authority and commands never sentimentality. “

””I never heard of the operation,” Dr. Halsey said.

“Because it was a success,” Kurt replied, regaining some control. “If it hadn’t been, the Covenant would have destroyed every Orion-side colony But the entire company, three hundred Spartans, was lost.”

Dr. Halsey started to reach out toward him, and then stopped, thinking better of it. “Tom and Lucy?”

“”The only survivors of Beta Company from the Pegasi Delta Op,” he replied.

They were silent a moment. Kurt wrestled to rise above his emotions and the memories. But with so many lost he felt like he was drowning.

“I understand why you would risk such an outlawed protocol,” Dr. Halsey said. “You would do anything to help them, your Spartans as would I for mine.”

“ “You are correct. I did not come to Onyx looking for Forerunner technology. I came for the Spartans. We want the same thing: their survival.”

She set one hand over her throat some reflexive defensive gesture to protect herself. “This is not a war the UNSC can win, Kurt. Surely this has occurred to you?”

He nodded, although in fact it had not.

She seemed to accept this, however, and continued. “We have been slowly losing this war. ‘Slowly,’ I think, because we had not been the main focus of the Covenant hegemony until recently. Now they have found and targeted Earth. Add to this grim scenario the Flood an emergent biology that even the Forerunners could not control.”

“But we have to fight,” Kurt said. “The Covenant don’t take prisoners. And from what you’ve told us of the Flood there’s no other option.”

Dr. Halsey smiled. “So like a Spartan and, at the same time you are so unlike any of them. You crossed a line none of your kind has ever dared before: breaking regulations and engineering a massive cover-up. All to protect your charges. As I had planned, though, went much farther”

“You see,” Dr. Halsey said, “my SPARTAN-lls would never leave a fight. They are too indoctrinated to know any other way. But when I learned of the possibility of a new generation of Spartans, I realized there was a chance to lure them away. Perhaps place them in cryo and fly as fast and as far away as I could from this sector of the galaxy. “

Given these quotes, the Datapads, and Halsey’s Journal itself; I have presented more than enough evidence to show the following-

1.That The spartan-II program was needed which all parties (UEG,ONI,UNSC,and Halsey) came to conclude. Halsey did not randomly create the project for her own motives. ONI and the UNSC gave her support throughout the entire project.

2. The only action that Halsey did which ONI was unaware of was cloning herself to create Cortana. The cloning of the Spartan-IIs was a part of the program and fully sanctioned.

3. Halsey is not some unemotional monster that created the Spartan-IIs just because she could. From the very beginning the moral and ethical complexities confounded her, causing extreme pain. She tried her best to give the Spartans the best she could give them. Emotion was rarely displayed because the Spartans were too indoctrinated to appropriately receive it and would not respect such actions. Halsey got around that by taking the time to get to know them and indirectly teach them of her mistakes. For Decades she has sat with the residual thoughts of the program still questioning if there was anything she could have done better.

I hope that you are now able to see without any obstruction, how someone is taking the blame for actions which were not fully put in motion by them and deemed to be pragmatic. After reading this article you should have a better view from Halsey’s angle and why she finally decided to stop putting up with such slander. Always dig deeper to find the truth and never believe something just because it was presented.

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