WASHINGTON — Palantir Technologies has mapped out in a motion filed with the US Court of Federal Claims what it believes are the Army's repeated, biased attempts to block the company from working with the service to test and integrate its technology into the force's intelligence analysis framework.
Palantir sued the Army in July for issuing what it says is an unlawful procurement solicitation for the service's next iteration of its internally developed intelligence software suite — the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) — that shuts the company's commercial offering out of the competition.
The Palo Alto-based company has argued the way the Army wrote its requirements in a request for proposals to industry would shut 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.
Palantir is seeking to show the court that its data-management product — Palantir Gotham Platform — does exactly what DCGS-A is trying to do and comes at a much lower cost.
The 62-page motion filed at the end of August documents an ugly past between the Army and Palantir punctuated with confusion and frustration.
The document argues the Army inexplicably cancelled evaluations of Palantir scheduled to take place in the service’s laboratories then lied about those evaluations taking place.
And without evaluating Palantir, the Army spent several years mischaracterizing the company’s technological capabilities to Congress and to the public by using documents with false information, according to an unsealed but redacted copy of the motion posted to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) website.
While the motion catalogs some skeletons in the closet following testimony from key Army officials, the express purpose of it is to get the court’s permission to dredge up additional information from the Army’s acquisition branch to look for evidence that its procurement strategy and market research, prior to the DCGS-A Increment 2 competition, was based on inaccurate information about Palantir’s capabilities and influenced by bias from those seeking to block Palantir.
"The discovery Palantir now seeks is intended to uncover additional direct evidence that these bad faith actions directly infected the Solicitation process," the motion states.
While the motion doesn't answer why the Army did what it did, it does show what was done to keep Palantir at bay, one source close to the issue noted.
The motion also requests that the court order the Army — which is nearing a contract award for DCGS-A Inc. 2 — to postpone any award until after Oct. 31, giving the Army and Palantir more time to collect the requested documentation and review what is produced in the additional discovery.
According to PACER, the judge’s ruling on the motion is sealed, but another sealed filing on the website indicates that new documents were submitted to the record Wednesday as the result of the motion.
Here’s a deeper look at the claims Palantir makes.
Army Intelligence Staff Blocked Palantir From Evaluations
Palantir attempted to undertake an evaluation in 2009 at the Joint Integration Laboratory that would have helped the company introduce its product to the intelligence community, according to testimony from the then-G-2 (Army intelligence branch) chief information officer.
Just before the evaluation was to take place, the G-2 canceled the evaluation in an email to Palantir, and according to the motion, never gave a "plausible" explanation as to why.
Then in 2010 and 2011, Palantir tried to conduct evaluations with the Army in the Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL).
The SIL product line lead at the time testified in court that the evaluations would have demonstrated its compatibility with the DCGS-A Integrated Backbone (DIB), among other things. DIB compatibility is one of the capabilities the Army now says isn’t available for commercial items, the motion notes.
And, "in defending its failure to solicit a commercial item as part of its DCGS-A2 solicitation, the Army and its witnesses try to rely on the lack of expansive testing of Palantir’s technology — but that lack of testing resulted from the Army’s own blocking efforts," the motion reads.
Palantir sent a chain of emails in 2010 and 2011 showing it was trying to find a way to conduct evaluations at the SIL and was set to do so in 2011, sending equipment to the lab and getting ready to fly employees out there, but at the last minute, the evaluation appeared to have been postponed, according to a heavily redacted section of the motion. The effort was then declared dead in the water.
Palantir argues the Army has not been able to give a reason for not following through with the SIL evaluation, either.
Moreover, the Army admitted in testimony that an information paper it distributed to Congress in 2011 claiming the program office evaluated the integration of Palantir "workflow and user tools" within the existing DCGS-A baseline, "is probably not a good characterization of what actually occurred."
There is also indication in the motion that the Army testified before Congress that Palantir was unwilling to test its interoperability with the DCGS-A system, but Palantir’s lawyers argue that emails from Palantir to the Army show the exact opposite.
A Campaign of Misinformation
Army G-2, according to the motion, insisted on the rescission and alteration of an Army Test and Evaluation Command report in 2012 that had "highly favorable findings" of Palantir’s capabilities, including a recommendation that more Palantir servers be added to operations in Afghanistan.
Palantir claims the G-2 staff directly asked for positive sections of the report on Palantir be removed. The motion asks for more information from the lead investigator that looked into whether the Army acted inappropriately in removing information from the report before its final release.
Army G-2 and DCGS-A program office staff also circulated more information to Capitol Hill, to other Army officials and the public meant to mislead or show a lack of understanding of Palantir’s capabilities, according to the motion.
The Army’s attempts to provide incorrect information about Palantir included circulating a Venn diagram claiming Palantir could only perform a sliver of what DCGS-A would do. Army testimony admits this information — shown to Congress and in Army briefing slides — by 2014 or 2015 was "dated."
The Army made a similar claim on national television in 2014 that, according to its evaluations of Palantir, it could only do 8-10 percent of the functions required by DCGS-A. The evaluations, as it has become clear, did not happen.
An official in the Army G-2 also admitted in testimony to giving a reporter a "negative" and "not scientific" document about Palantir’s capabilities that was written by one of her staffers but made to come off like a report by the International Security Assistance Force. The official testified she did not tell the reporter that the report was written by one of her staffers or that it was not based on scientific data, according to the motion.
Palantir Alerted Army of Persistent Bias in 2014
Palantir sent a letter to the deputy assistant secretary of the Army’s acquisition branch on Oct. 7, 2014, listing 45 allegations of the Army "blocking" or preventing commanders in the field from ordering Palantir, according to the motion.
Media reports over the past several years have documented some of these requests that were never fulfilled.
The company argues that the 2014 letter from Palantir serves as evidence the Army knew about the allegations of bias when it developed the solicitation for the current DCGS-A Inc. 2 competition.
"But Palantir does not know what, if anything, the Army did to investigate these allegations," the motion states. "All Palantir knows is that the Army’s market research for the DCGS-A2 solicitation presupposed from the outset that the requirements for DCGS-A2 would be satisfied through a developmental contract, and the Army never even considered satisfying some or all of those requirements through the acquisition of a commercial item from Palantir."
Requests for comment from the Army on claims made in the motion were referred to the Department of Justice.
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.