Correction: This story was originally published on July 18. It has been updated to clarify a title. Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson was the commander of US Army Operational Test Command (OTC), a subordinate command to Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC).
WASHINGTON — The US Army has provided notice to the US Court of Federal Claims that it will not make a contract award for the next version of its intelligence analysis software suite before Sept. 1, as a lawsuit against the service plays out in court.
The service indicates it was directed to provide notification during a status conference on July 13, according to the notice filed with the court July 15.
Palantir Technologies filed a lawsuit with the court on June 30 against the Army for issuing what it says is an unlawful procurement solicitation for the service's Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) that presumably shuts the company's commercial offering -- the Gotham platform -- out of the competition.
Palo-Alto, California-based Palantir argues that the lawsuit was necessary because the Army should be stopped from moving forward on an unlawful and risk-prone software development project that would reinvent the wheel at a very high price.
The Silicon Valley company has also filed a motion for permanent injunction to prevent the Army from moving forward with its DCGS-A program until the court has made a ruling on the case. A response on the request is due at the end of the month.
The Army previously had not publicly stated when it intended to award a DCGS-A contract for Increment 2, but it was expected to choose a winner in fiscal year 2016.
The controversy over whether the Army should dump its DCGS-A program after spending more than a decade and $3 billion to develop it or go with a commercial-off-the-shelf solution has been percolating for many years.
Palantir is arguing the way the Army wrote its requirements in a request for proposals to industry would leave out Silicon Valley companies that provide commercially available products. The company contended that the Army's plan to award just one contract to a lead systems integrator means commercially available solutions would have to be excluded.
The Army's solicitation, released in December 2015, sought bids to develop a data management platform for DCGS-A Increment 2. The service said it was seeking a lead integrator to create a framework that could gather data from numerous sources with a common data layer, share data seamlessly across a suite of analytical tools and provide easy-to-use visualization of the framework for soldiers to use in the field.
Much of the proceedings in the Palantir case are sealed, but the names of Army representatives being called in for depositions are public.
Now retired Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, who was the deputy chief of staff for Army intelligence (G-2), will be deposed, which is no shock considering the position she held for roughly four years.
And Legere is no stranger to the DCGS-A controversy. It's been surmised that the White House withdrew its plans to nominate her to head up the Defense Intelligence Agency back in 2014 as issues within the DCGS-A program came under intense scrutiny -- particularly the alleged mismanagement of funds for a program related to DCGS called Red Disk that was envisioned as a cloud computing component for the system, but ultimately considered a failure.
Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson, who is now the Army's chief legislative liaison, will also be questioned. Richardson was serving as the commander of US Army Operational Test Command when it wrote an initial, positive assessment of Palantir and also when the Army allegedly attempted to destroy the original report and came out with a revised second, less-favorable report. Richardson signed both reports.
The doctored Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) report was seen by some as early evidence of the tension between the Army and Palantir when it made headlines in 2012. Richardson's command is a subordinate command to ATEC. Army Chief of Staff at the time, Gen. Raymond Odierno, led an investigation into whether ATEC tried to conceal or even destroy the original report to downplay positive user feedback of Palantir and negative feedback of DCGS-A.
The Army was, at the same time, accused of withholding Palantir from units urgently requesting the system in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kevin Kelly, the author of a Mitre report conducted for the Pentagon in 2013 that was never formally released to Congress, is listed among those to be deposed. The report in question was intended to inform the Defense Department and Congress what Palantir could and could not do for the Army. But after initial findings came out, the Pentagon supposedly ran out of funding for the report and it was never completed, according to an industry lobbyist familiar with the issue.
While the report doesn't say Palantir is a one-for-one replacement for DCGS-A, it found that the software's performance was "very good" or "excellent" on many important requirements, including some things the Army claimed it couldn't do, according to a report in Foreign Policy in 2014.
Last in the witness lineup is Chris Fisher, a contracting officer for DCGS-A listed, who signed a "Determination of Non-Commercial Item" certification dated July 1 -- the day after Palantir filed its protest in court. The document concluded that there is no commercial item available that could replace DCGS-A in full.
Fisher determined, "The full requirement cannot be met by a commercial item or combination of items, and minor modifications to commercially available items will not satisfy this requirement."
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.