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Army campaigns to defend current detector of bombs
Question of the Day
The Army has started a behind-the-scenes campaign to defend its homegrown battlefield intelligence system against critics in the field and in Congress.
The Army is implying that soldiers’ requests for a competing spy tool are “ghost written” by defense contractors, internal documents show.
Rep. Duncan Hunter has accused the Army of making it difficult for soldiers in Afghanistan to buy a software system called Palantir. In internal emails to the Pentagon, deployed soldiers have raved about the off-the-shelf program’s ability to calculate where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are buried.
An Army “talking points” memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, includes a question on Joint Urgent Operation Needs, or JUON, through which commanders can ask for emergency war gear: “Isn’t there a JUONS request from Afghanistan for Palantir?”
“There are multiple requests for capabilities in theater and many are ghost written by commercial vendors,” is the Army’s answer.
A staffer for Mr. Hunter, who has reviewed intelligence officers’ requests for Palantir, said they are based on Palantir’s performance and not on requests from contractors to buy it. Requesters include senior officers.
Asked whether the Army is asserting that Palantir vendors are writing the requests, Pentagon spokesman George Wright told The Times: “The Army staff has been reviewing this matter for some time. In light of the current investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on internal discussions.”
Another document, prepared by Lynn Schnurr, the Army’s chief intelligence information officer, was written for presentation to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense. It lauds the common defense system and talks about Palantir’s supposed limits and its increased cost.
A Hunter staffer said Palantir is actually less expensive than the Distributed Common Ground System, and that while special operations and the Marine Corps are expanding their use of the program, the Army is resisting a proven system against IEDs, a major killer of U.S. troops.
In its defense, the Army has said it signed an agreement in May to study incorporating Palantir into the common defense system.
Among Palantir’s fans is Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan, whose intelligence officers relied on the program during a deployment this year in southwest Afghanistan.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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