DCGS vs. Palantir
Books on Afghanistan
The intelligence fusion and targeting process has seen great growth over the past decade and more. Sophisticated software systems have been designed to sift through all this information in an effort to provide timely and useable intelligence that will drive operations.
Two Intelligence Software Systems. Two widely-used software systems have been fielded to accomplish this task. The Army has, at great expense, designed and fielded a system called "Distributed Common Ground System" or DCGS. A software system favored by and in wide use by the Marine Corps, SOF units, CIA, and some conventional units is called "Palantir". These two software systems are used in providing intelligence support to the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan in an effort to attack the network of insurgents through the intelligence targeting process.
Controversy. There is a great deal of debate going on about these two systems. Both software systems have supporters and detractors.
Distributed Common Ground System - Army. DCGS-A is envisioned to be the primary application for 'mining' for intelligence and providing surveillance data from the many ISR sources coming from the battlefield. The DCGS-A system has cost $2.3 billion thus far. Many large contracting firms were involved in the project - to inculde Raytheon, IBM, and Lockheed. However, DCGS-A does not do what it is supposed to do. It is too complicated, requires many hours of training, and is not reliable.
The Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) conducted a survey in April 2012 on DCGS-A. Its report 1. was damaging to DCGS-A and it recommended that Palantir be fielded to troops in Afghanistan.
DCGS-A an Unsecured System? Some news reports indicate that DCGS is susceptible to hackers from outside the secured domains and that the U.S. command in Kabul is threatening to take DCGS off the computer system network. 2. The Afghanistan command has given the Army 60 days (starting in late September 2013) to fix its security vulnerabilities or take the DCGS system off the network; which would render DCGS almost useless as an intelligence system. 3.
Funding for DCGS Cut by Congress. In the fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill Congress cut more than 60 percent of the planned spending for DCGS-A. The Army requested $267 million for DCGS but only received $110 million - nearly a 60 percent drop. 4.
Palantir. This system was built by a small Silicon Valley firm and costs a fraction of what DCGS-A costs. A Joint Urgent Operations Needs Statement (JUONS) was received by the Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office; and this office started fielding Palantir to Special Operations and Marine forces in Afghanistan.
Palantir software is Java-based (platform). The software analyzes, integrates and visualizes many different types fo data. It can access data sources such as Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR), Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE), Multimedia Message Manager (M3), Biometrics Automated Toolset (BATs), Cellular Exploitatin (CELLEX), Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS), and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The Palantir software has won high praise from some very important people to include two former Directors of the CIA and a former National Security Advisor. 2.
DCGS-A. Army website about DCGS-A.
Distributed Common Ground System - Ground. General
Dynamics C4 Systems.
"What is the Distributed Common Ground System - Army (DCGS-A)?". A video posted on Army Live Blog dated January 16, 2014.
DCGS Army's Channel. Videos posted on YouTube by
Hunter, Ducan. Letter from Representative Duncan
Hunter to the Secretary of the Army expressing discontent about the
inoperability and cost overruns of DCGS, January 7, 2015.
Palantir. Home page.
Palantir Technologies Info. InfoSec Institute.
Global Terrorism Database (GTD) in Palantir.
June 21, 2016. "Palantir lambastes Army over $206 million contract bidding", Stars & Stripes.
June 21, 2016. "Palantir unleashes its lawyers over US Army's intelligence software", C4ISRNET. Company is filing a protest over the awarding of a contract for DCGS-A Increment 2.
April 12, 2016. "US Army Chief Lukewarm on Tactical DCGS-A Capability", Defense News. General Milley thinks it is acceptable at the strategic level but lacks at the tactical level.
March 20, 2016. "Army must ditch its war data network, former Defense Intelligence Agency chief says", The Washington Times.
March 6, 2016. "Spies Sans Frontieres?", IRIN News. How CIA-linked Palantir is gaining ground in the aid industry (and why some humanitarians are worried).
April 17, 2015. "Army says intelligence system is getting easier to use". Defense Systems. The Army acknowledges that DCGS-A has come in for a lot of criticism in the last couple of years, with users complaining it is difficult to use and unreliable. The Army promises future versions will be much more user-friendly.
April 15, 2015. "Army plans intelligence system to be lighter easier to use". Army.mil.
March 31, 2015. "Resistance to DCGS-A persists". GCN.com. The inadequate intelligence system will eventually cost over $10 billion once completely fielded.
March 26, 2015. "Bureaucrats Block Special Ops Intel Requests". ABC News. Big Army is forcing SOF to use DCGS instead of the preferred Palantir.
December 16, 2014. "Intelligence center develops DCGS-A tactical engagement teams to support mission command". Army.mil.
October 28, 2014. "Official allowed others to believe he had Ph.D.". AP Big Story.
October 27, 2014. "INSIDE WASHINGTON: Profiting from failure". AP Big Story. Several government officials appear to be profiting from a 'revolving door'.
October 14, 2014. "New program manager of DCGS-A hopes for a strong start". FCW.com. Pity the man; it is a thankless job.
September 17, 2014. "Geospatial analysis tool built to support Army intelligence analysis". Army.mil.
August 14, 2014. "Army: DCGS Competition Planned for 2016". DoD Buzz. Despite the poor performance of DCGS, detractors among the Army's intelligence community, and congressional dismay at the cost - the Army continues to invest heavily in the failed software application.
August 14, 2014. "Army hits reset button on intelligence-sharing system". FCW. bidding to open for commercial firms to try to fix the $5 billion network (that doesn't work). The new version will be known as "DCGS-A Incement 2". Let's hope it works better than increment one. We will have to wait two years and millions of dollars to see the results.
July 21, 2014. "Army intelligence system pulled from key test". Army Times. Army pulls software system from Fall 2014 test due to software errors.
July 9, 2014. "Army Leaders Defend Flawed Intelligence System". ABC News. Gen. John Campbell is questioned on the accuracy of his defence of the extremely expensive and very ineffective DCGS-A during his nomination hearing for COMISAF.
May 1, 2014. "Problems with Army's battlefield intel system unresolved after two years". The Washington Times. Two years after the 82nd Airborne Division identified significant problems with DCGS-A; it finds the same problems during a recent training exercise.
April 28, 2014. "Army Set to Brief Congress on Flawed Multibillion Software Program". The Blaze.
March 19, 2014. "Pentagon withholds internal report about flawed $2.7 billion intel program". Stars and Stripes.
February 24, 2014. "Soldiers say leadership critical in enhancing DCGS-A capabilities". www.army.mil. (Caution: You are entering a spin zone!).
February 9, 2014. "Soldiers say intel tool is too difficult". The Washington Times.
February 7, 2014. "Army units give thumbs-down to battlefield intelligence system". Defense Systems.
February 6, 2014. "Army Units in Afghanistan Slam Intel System". DoD Buzz. The news from the war about DCGS just doesn't get any better.
January 16, 2014. "Distributed Common Ground System - Army". Stand-To!
November 3, 2013. Training Requirements Memo. In Nov 2013 ISAF sent a memo to Forces Command on recommendations for training requirements to maintain proficiency on DCGS-A. Posted on Military.com website here.
November 1, 2013. "Abort, Retry, Fail? Fixing Army Software". Small Wars Journal. Article offers some suggestions on how to fix Army software.
October 8, 2013. "How troops in Afghanistan get a clear vision of intell". GCN.
October 6, 2013. "Army redesigns fusion server of battlefield intel system, but 'next generation' draws skeptics". The Washington Times. Army wants to spend more money on a failed Army intel system instead of going with a proven, less costly, and already fielded commercially available system.
September 25, 2013. "Army partners with industry for future intelligence support". ECN Magazine.
August 14, 2013. "How a 'Deviant' Philosopher Built Palantir, A CIA-Funded Data-Miniing Juggernaut". Forbes.com.
July 31, 2013. "The Army Brings the Cloud to the Battlefield". Fed Tech Magazine.
July 29, 2013. "Plan Would Give Soldiers a Common Geospatial View of the Battlefield". Defense News. Director of Army's Geospatial Acquisition Support Directorate provides insight to future program.
July 18, 2013. "Private spying company hosts conference for NZ intelligence community". New Zealand Herald.
July 1, 2013. "Special Forces, Marines Embrace CIA's Palantir Intelligence Software". Business Insider.
July 1, 2013. "Army's internal battle: Fight with the GAO over battlefield intelligence system". The Washington Times. DCGS is favored by "big Army" but warfighters in Afghanistan want Palantir.
June 19, 2013. "Palantir Now Fighting Human Traffickers, Instead of the U.S. Army". Foreign Policy National Security. State Department now using Palantir.
May 29, 2013. "The Army's multibillion dollar 'money pit'". Politico. The Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) still doesn't work despite a lot of money put against it. Meanwhile intelligence analysts in Afghanistan swear by Palantir.
May 17, 2013. "Army Defends Intel System After Spat Between Odierno and Hunter". DoD Buzz.
May 9, 2013. "Watchdog Group Slams Army's Battlefield Intel System". Defense Tech. DCGS-A criticized as a wasteful project with numerous problems.
April 30, 2013. "Army Secretary McHugh backs Odierno after row with Hunter". The E-Ring, Foreign Policy. Gen Odierno defends DCGS-A.
November 30, 2012. "No Spy Software Scandal Here, Army Claims". Wired.com.
September 23, 2012. "In anti-IED software case, Army's buying rules trump troops' safety". The Washington Times.
September 21, 2012. "Army Lets 3rd ID Use IED Intel System". Military.com.
August 8, 2012. "Brain, Damaged: Army Says Its Software Mind Is 'Not Survivable'". Wired.com. DCGS-A a flawed software system for Army intelligence.
August 1, 2012. "Spy Chief Called Silicon Valley Stooge in Army Software Civil War". LTG Michael Flynn supports Palantir but others say he fell in with the Silicon Valley company inadvertantly. Danger Room, Wired.com.
July 22, 2012. "Soldier battling bombs irked by software switch". The Washington Times. The Army Test and Evaluation Command orders a report published in April 2012 praising Palantir to be destroyed and replaced with a report less favorable to Palantir.
November 22, 2011. "Palantir, the War on Terror's Secret Weapon". Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine. Palantir Technologies a darling of intel and LE.
December 25, 2010. "U.S. Army Extends Intelligence Fusion with Palantir Technology". Defense Update. The information analysis system establishes an integrated intelligence fusion and analysis capability in Afghansitan. It can send info to hand-held devices and also interact with Blue Force Tracking (BFT) and TIGR systems.
1. A copy of the report by the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) entitled Forward Operational Assessment Report - Palantir, dated April 2012 can be found here on the wired.com website.
2. For more on on DCGS security weakness see "U.S. military's battlefield network in Afghanistan vulnerable to hackers: Report", Business Standard, September 25, 2013. Story available here.
3. For more info on DCGS security vulnerabilities see "U.S. command in Afghanistan gives Army 60 days to fix or replace intel network", The Washington Times, September 24, 2013. Story available here.
4. For more info on the Congressional funding cut in fiscal 2014 read "Army mulls funding for controverisal intel network", The Washington Times, February 4, 2014. Story available here.
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