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Army considers Palantir to boost intelligence architecture

by Mike Hoffman on December 20, 2012

Army officials have started a competition towards potentially incorporating the popular and controversial Palantir intelligence system into the Army’s larger intelligence architecture.

Soldiers have requested the Palantir system for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan for help identifying improvised explosive device (IED) networks and emplacements. Palantir is used to display mountains of data collected by soldiers who record the locations of IEDs.

Army officials, however, have opposed the system because Palantir does not work within the Army’s intelligence architecture called the Distributed Common Ground System — Army (DCGSA). Therefore, the data used with Palantir is not visible to other units in theater. 

Thirteen brigade combat teams have requested the Palantir system to take with them on deployments. The Army has approved nine such requests, but also notably denied the other four. Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, said the denials have occurred for a variety of reasons.

Greene said the Army recognizes the Palantir’s capabilities to include its ease of use and the ability to effectively display massive amounts of data. The service is not opposed to using Palantir if it is interoperable with the Army’s other systems, Greene said.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has taken on the cause of the Palantir and grilled Army leaders for not allowing all of the requests issued from BCTs to deploy with the intelligence system.

“The idea that ground combat units in Afghanistan are being denied intelligence tools that are requested and readily available is unsettling and underscores a major failure in a process that is intended to deliver resources to the warfighter as quickly as possible,” Hunter wrote to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in July.

Hunter also contacted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno about his concerns that the Army would deny the deployment request from any brigade combat teams.

Greene said Palantir would be one of many companies who would compete to enhance the Army’s DCGS-A. However, he did not know what the timeline was for the competition.

The Army is working on improvements to its intelligence architecture as it prepares to deploy it Army-wide. Previously, the Army could only deploy it to deploying units and the occasional state-side unit.

Service engineers are already working on improvements for DCGS-A. Army testers found problems with the system’s ability to incorporate Top Secret data. Army officials expect fixes to be made by next year.

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