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Confidential memo: Army intelligence software has ‘poor reliability’
Updates planned, but not Palantir
Question of the Day
The Army’s intelligence-processing software that was developed to help soldiers in Afghanistan understand the enemy and predict actions suffers from “poor reliability” and is “not survivable” against cyberattacks, the service’s top tester said in a confidential memo to the Army chief of staff.
The highly critical Aug. 1 report on the Distributed Common Ground System was submitted as the Army was under fire for making it difficult for commanders in Afghanistan to buy a competing software platform called Palantir, which soldiers say helps them find roadside bombs, the top killer of U.S. troops.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week announced that it was investigating the Army’s decision to kill an April evaluation that favored Palantir. The Army ordered the assessment destroyed and replaced it with a second report less favorable to Palantir.
The Aug. 1 memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, was written by Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, who heads the Army Test and Evaluation Command — the same command that conducted the in-country survey of Palantir users, then killed it.
Gen. Dellarocco’s memo to Gen. Raymond T. Odierno reports on the results of operational tests on the Distributed Common Ground System software in May and June.
The memo uses terms such as “not suitable,” “not survivable” and “effective with significant limitations” to describe the system of databases and analytical processors designed to help soldiers understand and predict enemy tactics.
“The report provides an initial review of DCGS software, which identified specific limitations in its performance,” Mr. Wright said. “Many of these limitations were already identified by the Army, and software updates have been implemented to address the concerns.
“Military software applications and tools today are similar to our smartphones: Applications are constantly updated to meet user needs. The version of DCGS-A identified in this test is undergoing improvement in a constantly evolving process.”
The Dellarocco report is sure to bolster the case of Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. Hunter accuses the Army of protecting its homegrown system, for which it has spent more than $2 billion, at the expense of several commanders who have urged the Pentagon over the past year to let them buy the cheaper Palantir system.
Developed by Palantir Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., the software platform is used by special operations units, Air Force personnel and some Army units that are able to win Pentagon approval to buy it.
The Dellarocco report said that, under low-tempo operational tests that were much less strenuous than actual battle, the common ground system was cumbersome and prone to crashes.
“Poor reliability was observed,” Gen. Dellarocco wrote. “Server failures that resulted in reboots/restarts were recorded every 5.5 hours of test. … Workstation operators experienced a failure every 10.8 hours of active usage.
“Based on observations across many programs, we expect that high [operational tempo] conditions will decrease reliability further still.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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