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.

  • blight_

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

  • SJE

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

  • 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!

  • 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.)

  • 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

  • crackedlenses

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

  • 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_
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