The Army presented two two-star generals and three intelligence specialists Thursday to defend its $2.5 billion battlefield intelligence processor, which has failed operational tests and has been criticized by soldiers as being too slow to analyze the enemy and help find buried bombs in Afghanistan.
In a news conference at the Pentagon, the Army specialists lauded the Defense Common Ground System, an array of computers, servers and programs that is the Army’s principal processor of huge amounts of battlefield data.
The Washington Times first reported in July about an internal battle within the Army. Commanders and intelligence officers in Afghanistan complained in messages to Army headquarters about the Defense Common Ground System.
Some asked for permission to buy Palantir, an off-the-shelf software platform that specializes in linking disparate bits of information to form a clear picture of the battlefield.
In some cases, Army officials involved in shielding the Defense Common Ground System from possible budget cuts viewed Palantir as a competitor and worked to shut off the requests.
Thursday’s news conference offered a different view.
The generals said the Defense Common Ground System, which has been in development for a decade, grew out of a giant gap in intelligence collection: There was no single database to bring together information in Afghanistan and look for links among suspected enemy fighters.
“We had a difficult time [in] what we were collecting and even what it was collecting, when it was collecting and where it was collecting,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, who heads the Army Intelligence and Security Command. He has held senior posts in special operations, Central Command and Afghanistan.
“Data from all that collection resided in different databases that were often incompatible,” Gen. Fogarty said.
A different tale
Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the Army’s deputy for acquisition and systems management, said the Defense Common Ground System “replaced nine different intelligence systems.”
“This really is a change in methodology,” Gen. Greene said. “It reduces the amount of hardware we have to buy and the footprint on the ground.”
Intelligence processing has become especially important in fighting terrorists such as the Taliban, who wear no uniforms and hide among the population, making them difficult to identify.
“It’s really the Army intelligence-analyst weapon system,” Gen. Fogarty said. “DCGS has been used effectively in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world by both conventional and our special operations forces. We believe it enhances soldiers’ situational awareness and improves commanders’ ability to protect the force.”
The Times has obtained a series of messages from combatants that tell a far different story.