- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Army ordered the destruction of a report that praised the performance of an off-the-shelf software program that finds buried explosives in Afghanistan and replaced it with a revised, less-favorable assessment, according to internal Pentagon documents.

The unusual action came amid a battle inside the Army. It pits those who want the service to send more of the software platform, called Palantir, to the Afghanistan War against those who favor the Army’s own developed intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).

Internal emails reveal an intelligence officer in Afghanistan who was frustrated by Army bureaucrats who blocked his request to buy Palantir in the winter.

“We are trying to solve some very hard problems that pose life or death issues for the soldiers,” the officer emailed to the Pentagon.

The documents obtained by The Washington Times show that Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, in February ordered the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) to judge the performance of Palantir.

ATEC published internally its official report in April, but the report was rescinded and ordered destroyed. The less-favorable assessment of Palantir was issued in its place in May.

The Times first reported last week that commanders in Afghanistan asked higher-ups for permission to buy Palantir, as they raved about its ability to pinpoint a major killer of American troops — buried homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Times reported how officers had to go over bureaucratic hurdles to acquire Palantir, which is not in the annual Army budget and would have to be purchased with special funds.

‘Damning thought’

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Army procurement officials at the Pentagon were trying to protect the DCGS, which the service developed with private industry, and discourage use of Palantir produced by Palantir Technologies in Palo Alto, Calif.

“What I’m concerned about the most is the bureaucracy in the Pentagon is stopping the war fighter from getting the right gear at the right time,” Mr. Hunter, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, told The Times.

“We now know in the past that these reports we’ve been getting on a lot of different things may have been revised internally. That’s a pretty damning thought.”

Mr. Hunter praised Gen. Odierno for talking to his commanders in Afghanistan earlier this year and assuring them that they would get Palantir if they wanted it.

Events leading to the destruction of the favorable report began after ATEC published the 50-page analysis in April. Labeled “for official use only,” the assessment praised Palantir and offered some criticism of DCGS as too slow to process data.

On June 29, Col. Joseph Martin, who heads Army Operational Test Command, signed a memo killing the April report and replacing it with one dated in May.

Story Continues →