Unit’s fight for better anti-IED software won after heavy casualties

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Gen. Flynn did not single out a specific system for criticism, but Pentagon officials say he was bemoaning the performance of the Army’s common-defense system. He demanded that the Pentagon provide a system able to process, link and display data for all units to see.

“Current tools do not provide intuitive capabilities to see the relationship between a wide variety of disparate sets of information,” Gen. Flynn said in the memo, first reported by Politico.

“The enemy is able to take advantage of his ability to hide in plain sight in the population because we have been unable to fully exploit the information/intelligence we already have. Detainees with existing connections to the insurgency have been released because we could not fully understand or exploit the information we held.”

Gen. Flynn, named director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency last month, was seeking the kind of analysis for which Palantir was becoming famous.

Surprised by IED threat

In December 2009, the Army Times published an extensive article by Sean Naylor on the 5th Stryker brigade’s first six months in Afghanistan and the hits it took from IEDs.

That October, seven soldiers died when an IED blew up a Stryker vehicle. By December, 21 soldiers from a single battalion had been killed, the highest for any Army battalion in Afghanistan.

“The extent of the IED threat was a surprise to us all,” the Army Times quoted one commander as saying. “The enemy we faced in the Arghandab [district] adapted to our TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] faster and more effectively than anyone expected.”

An Army spokesman provided The Washington Times with this Palantir timeline: Col. Tunnell’s official request was submitted July 23, 2009; the Army approved it two months later; a contract was awarded Dec. 21; Palantir arrived in the country on Feb. 18, 2010, the brigade’s eighth month in combat.

Mr. Kasper, the congressional staffer, said Col. Tunnell stopped asking for Palantir until he arrived in Afghanistan, where a request from the field would have a better chance of approval.

“He made a deliberate decision to request in theater and use the theater as the backdrop for the request,” Mr. Kasper said.

Rep. Hunter added, “Eventually, the Army had no other option but to give in and say ‘yes,’ even though it probably didn’t want to. The circumstances called for different technology and the command was asking for it, repeatedly, in fact.

“Bottom line: the command should have got what it needed, when first requested, to better protect soldiers in harm’s way.”

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