Army considers Palantir to boost intelligence architecture

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.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • riceball

    I find it pretty interesting that the Army has decided to name their intel system after a fictional ball.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Palantir Technologies is the company that developed the software. The Army didn’t name it you moron.

      • blight_

        Palantir Technologies is named for LOTR’s Palantir, which enabled users to communicate between each other at incredible distances, and with great skill to use their palantir as ISR devices. The problem being once the bad guy (in particular, powerful superbeings like Sauron) got his hands on a single Palantir, he could attack/influence/brainwash anybody else who used one.

        In this case, Palantir is totally inappropriate for a machine-learning/datamining system..?

        • Doramin

          Exactly. The Palantir crystal balls were strictly a communications device. But in the books, Tolkein made it strictly clear that a user could NOT use it to lie. Denethor of Gondor foolishly used it to communicate with Sauron and Sauron slowly brainwashed him into an attitude of despair and defeatism. However, Sauron could only do it gradually, by selectively filtering the information he imparted. The Palantir’s design would not allow him to lie or hypnotize through it. Young Meriadoc of the Shire got quite a blast when he picked up the Palantir and got on Sauron’s channel but even then Sauron could not drain his little mind of any useful intelligence.

          • blight_

            Denethor used his as an surveillance device until Sauron locked onto him. Sauron knew Minas Tirith had one and was probably waiting for him to log in…and boom. Since one is a mortal and the other is a semi-god; Sauron owned him.

            Gaze upon my legions, Denethor; and despair.

          • crackedlenses

            Considering Denethor was a mere human, I’d say he put up a good mental slugging match with the Dark Lord.

            In any case, he had an advantage since he had a right to use it. Sauron, being a illegit user, would have had to put up with more mental strain.

          • blight_

            Not sure if the palantir responded based on closeness-to-isildur. Saruman used his without problem, as did previous users at Osgiliath, Minas Ithil, Minas Tirith; the elves and the users at Arnor.

            Denethor just didn’t know his limits; and should’ve suspected deception the moment all of his visions looked ridiculously pessimistic. I believe Sauron was rather open about it; rather than being subtle.

          • crackedlenses

            Denethor had the authority to use it just as the Kings did. In fact, in earlier times the palantir had been one of the Steward’s duties, although Denethor was the first of the ruling Stewards to use it.

            Saruman and Sauron did not have this right by authority. This lack did not prevent their usage, but did make it more difficult to use. I don’t remember any accounts of elves using the palantir.

            Sauron was not known for being subtle, hence the success of the Quest of the Ring which would have not worked half as well against a cunning opponent.

      • Menzie

        For a former dirt dart you sure are good with public relations. Would not want you as my friend or relative. There are ways of getting your point across without belittling others. Apparently you haven’t learned that yet, or missed that decade at school.

  • blight_

    That said, Palantir sounds more like data mining software; but what is DCGSA?

    • tmb2

      The primary database the Army uses to collate all its battlefield intel material.

    • seoulman

      It’s more than a database, it’s actually a system with a suite of tools to aid in intelligence analysis and production.

      • blight_

        Surprised there isn’t a conversion wrapper somewhere between Palantir’s proprietary format and the military’s proprietary format.

        • Billy

          that’s where the legion of Palantir engineers come in. That will be $200 an hour, please dont forget to drink the Palantir cool-aid before waiting 30 minutes for the applet to fail…i mean load.

  • SJE

    I worry that this system will be susceptible to hijacking and takeover by malevolent wizards.

    • ducky
      • blight_

        I guess it’s good that only one Palantir remains on Middle Earth in the fourth era, until they dig up the one lost at Osgiliath and the two (or was it three?) at Forochel with Arvedui.

        /LOTRgeekdom

        • crackedlenses

          Actually the one at Osgiliath was destroyed, and the others were lost at sea. Have fun digging those up, lol.

          • blight_

            When it said that Arvedui foundered, I wonder if that meant littorally or farther out to sea. Probably never know. If he was close enough to the coast, they could conceivably wash up; but due to the remoteness of Arnor it would be hard to send out a search party to locate them; and I question if doing so was a priority for the Rangers, who had other things to deal with.

  • William_C1

    There would not be such a security risk if the King of Gondor properly funded scrying security efforts. He’s too busy trying to ban “great-swords”, which is nothing but a term invented by the media to scare the peasants. Shouldn’t he be worried about Sauron’s ambitions in the Great Sea? Just a month ago a Nazgul took off from a galley for the first time!

    • Doramin

      Not to mention that the intelligence-sharing agreement with the allied Kingdom of Rohan, while necessary, as they are on the front lines of the struggle automatically means Grima Wormtongue gets his paws on real-time data and slips it to Saruman.

      • JohnnyRanger

        Please. Rohan can’t even prevent their own horses from strolling right out the castle gate past the porticullis guards…

        • crackedlenses

          It is said that the Rohirrim love their horses as their own children. ……

          • JohnnyRanger

            HA!

    • blight_

      If anything I would be more worried about Dunland Spring potentially taking out Rohan. Our deluded Steward Denethor might even throw away years of alliance with Rohan in support of limited right of return for the savage Hillmen! There never was a Dunland, it’s just a fiction invented by savages who covet what they are too lazy to make!

      Rohan sucks too, when have they ever ridden to our aid? They’re just living off our military aid; we even built Helm’s Deep for them years ago. What a crock.

      More tax cuts for Dol Amroth and Osgiliath; less military spending in the Ithilien!

      • crackedlenses

        Considering how we have flip-flopped on the issue of Rohan’s new Westfold building projects, I can’t say I blame them for not being more friendly. Besides, with the new dwarf colony in the caves behind Helm’s Deep, it should more than pay for itself.

  • JCT

    The comment that the data cannot be shared with other units in-country is misleading. Palantir is web-based. Give anyone the link to the site and an account to login and they can access the data base. To reduce latency, local servers can be located throughout the country and they all sync once a day over the net (or via other means if network pipes are not big enough.)

    • blight_

      It’s the dreaded cloud!

  • COL Ken Allard

    See my recent column on Palantir as a classic tale of an intrinsically wasteful procurement system, a point largely missed in Hoffman’s story:
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/7/se

    • blight_

      Your column is more about raining on DCGSA instead of Palantir, unless you meant to say “my recent column on DCGSA as a classic tale…”?

  • crackedlenses

    I knew when I saw the title that the LOTR jokes would start up; scrolling down, my expectations have been exceeded.

    • blight_

      It’s their fault for picking to name their company Palantir Technologies.

      • JohnnyRanger

        This is the best DT thread since the Death Star petition. Maybe I am following the wrong blog…

        • blight_

          DoDBuzz, strategypage, Defense Industry Daily

          • JohnnyRanger

            DoDBuzz has had the same “featured video” of an airplane swallowing a tank and the same “more headlines” for MONTHS…

          • blight_

            I know, right?

            Danger Room (run by Noah, who used to run DT in the old days) is good.

  • Lance

    Shows like so many other Army programs no one wants it but the Generals so it get rammed threw anyway. Gofig!

  • JohnnyRanger

    I am SO trying to figure out how to work giant eagles into this thread so that BlackOwl can chime in on the amount of treasure Gondor is squandering on them…

    • blight_

      We should make jokes comparing Gandalf to Barack Obama.

      Damned community organizers and their halfling voting bloc!

  • Lautlos

    As a downrange Palantir user I am a fan. This is the best army related software that I’ve ever used. It is much more user friendly and agile than any of the ABCS systems.

    • blight_

      Is it army related? Sounds COTS. but the army is a client.

      • Lautlos

        Yep its cots … I heard it got it start fighting fraud with PayPal.

      • jct

        USMC is using it too, started mid-2011

  • blight_
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