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Report clears Army brass evaluating battlefield data processor

- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2012

An in-house Army investigation into why its own independent test report on a battlefield intelligence system was ordered to be destroyed and a new one written has cleared officials of any wrongdoing.

The investigation by Lt. Gen. William Grisoli, who directs the Army Office of Business Transformation, focused on the unusual decision last spring to destroy a final test report on Palantir, a non-Army computer processor growing in popularity among troops in Afghanistan in finding roadside bombs.

"I find that there was no intent on the part of any member of the Army G-2 [intelligence directorate] to deceive any Army decision maker regarding the effectiveness of the Palantir commercial system," Gen. Grisoli wrote.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, rejected Gen. Grisoli's findings. He noted there is evidence in the report that G-2 officials had interfered and later the report was altered.

"The Army's report provides no reassurances whatsoever, and the conclusion that's reached doesn't square with the information in the report," said Mr. Hunter, a Marine combat veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There's a lot of appeasement and undue influence that led to changes in [a] report that's supposed to provide objective information on the quality and effectiveness of a combat technology."

Mr. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has charged that the Army has blocked access to Palantir to protect and promote its own product, the Distributed Common Ground System.

An April report that was changed and re-released in May by the Army's Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) contained a field survey in Afghanistan on the performance of Palantir.

Military intelligence officers have praised the service platform for its ability to help them located buried bombs.

A series of memos in 2011 and 2012, obtained by The Washington Times, show Army field commanders asking permission to buy Palantir and Army headquarters rejecting or fighting the requests.

The Army favors its own data processor, the common ground system, but internal memos from troops reveal persistent complaints about its poor performance.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, last winter ordered the ATEC review of Palantir after the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division asked permission to buy and use it in southern Afghanistan, a Taliban hotbed.

ATEC's first report in April generally praised Palantir, based on interviews with soldiers, and recommended the Army buy its servers.

The Times first reported that the report was rescinded suddenly by ATEC and ordered to be destroyed. The new report deleted the server recommendation, as well as some of the praise about Palantir and how well it worked with other systems.

Gen. Odierno ordered a one-officer investigation by Gen. Grisoli.

The 71-page Grisoli report, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, clears officials of any impropriety. One charge was that the Army's intelligence directorate (G-2), which backs the common ground system, had interfered.

Gen. Grisoli concluded: "Based on the evidence reviewed, I find that the coordination between the ATEC leadership and the Army G-2, was professional and that there was no undue or improper influence exerted by any member of the Army G-2 towards any member of ATEC."

The Grisoli report itself shows that G-2 officials began complaining to ATEC, including its chief, Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, after they read the first report.

For example, on May 12, Lynn Schnurr, the G-2's chief intelligence information officer, emailed a senior ATEC officer complaining about the recommendation that the Army provide Palantir servers to soldiers in Afghanistan. This email, the report said, kicked off "numerous emails and phone calls" between G-2 and ATEC leadership.

The next day, the ATEC executive officer emailed that he was rescinding the report and would provide Ms. Schnurr the draft of the new one.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched an investigation into the Army's handling of Palantir.

Mr. Hunter said: "The Army continues fielding a system with major capability gaps that soldiers are clamoring to fill and gaps for which off-the- shelf solutions currently exist."

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