WASHINGTON — Rep. Duncan Hunter of California has asked Army Secretary John McHugh to launch an investigation into how and why requests from Army units in Afghanistan for intelligence gathering software were ignored in favor of the Army’s preferred system, which some claim is less effective.
At issue is an off-the-shelf software program developed by Palantir, which has had success in bringing intelligence streams together to better anticipate where roadside bombs are placed in Afghanistan. The Army has been developing the Distributed Common Ground System, which is its preferred system for integrating intelligence in the counter-IED fight.
In an August 23 letter obtained by Defense News, Hunter wrote that “From the time the Army’s first conventional ground force requested the software in 2008, there have been deliberate efforts on the part of mid-level bureaucrats to deny units this resource despite repeated urgent requests from commanders.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno has already launched an investigation into why requests for the Palantir software were either denied or ignored, and Hunter’s complaints have also spurred Congress to launch their own investigation.
Hunter’s letter to McHugh goes on to say that “Due to the fact that this is a persistent problem, and the necessity for the Congress and the Department of Defense to work hand-in-hand, I respectfully request that you, as Secretary of the Army, initiate your own review of this matter and the problems arising within the acquisition process. This is not just a problem for the Chief of Staff of the Army, since problems wit Palantir seem to mostly reside within the Army’s civilian sector.”
Defense News contacted the office of the Secretary of Defense for comment, but had not received a reply at the time of this writing.
In July, Hunter made public a series of internal Army documents showing that an April report from the Army Operational Test Command that was highly supportive of the Palantir system had been redacted by Col. Joseph Martin, who directs the Operational Test Command. Martin replaced the report with a new version that called for further study of the program, while deleting positive statements made by soldiers and contractors. “Upon destruction of the previous report, please confirm to me in an email that all copies of the original report dated 25 April has been destroyed,” Martin wrote in a memo. “If possible, can you please provide me the names of the individuals that the 25 April report was sent to.”