- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2012

The Army has hired private firms to help improve a $2.5 billion intelligence analytical processor used in Afghanistan by troops who have given it poor reviews in identifying the enemy and deadly buried explosives.

One of the firms involved is BRTRC of Fairfax, which lists strategic communications among its technological specialties.

An internal company email obtained by The Washington Times states that BRTRC will try to improve the image of the intelligence processor, the Distributed Common Ground System. The analytical processor has run into criticism in Congress and performed poorly in an operational test in May.

The Times asked the Army whether BRTRC was being brought in to “promote” the system.

An Army statement said it recently awarded a contract to the technology company DSCI for the Common Ground System. BRTRC is a subcontractor in the DSCI team, “which calls for a range of mission-support functions to include administrative support, engineering, logistics, strategic communications and knowledge management,” the statement said.

“It would be incorrect to say the purpose of the contract is to ‘promote’ DCGS,” the Army statement said.

The Army says strategic communications is just one mission of the private corporate team that will assist the Common Ground System’s program office.

The internal BRTRC email mentions assigning a strategic communications specialist to support the Common Ground System.

BRTRC boasts a communications operation that can deliver “media such as trade shows, exhibits, collateral material, videos, websites, briefings, public relations, giveaway materials, presentations, image libraries, posters and more.”

BRTRC representatives did not respond to questions from The Times.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has charged that the Army has tried to keep commercially available software processors from the troops in order to protect the Common Ground System’s continued funding.

“The decision to hire a strategic communications professional to manage a single program because it’s receiving unwanted attention is a serious misuse of tax dollars,” said Mr. Hunter. “And it shows that there isn’t any real interest in fixing the problem of why soldiers in Afghanistan aren’t getting resources they are urgently requesting.

“A communications adviser won’t solve the problem,” said Mr. Hunter, who served as a Marine Corps officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. “If the Army thinks this is a good use of funds or this will help deliver resources faster, they are seriously mistaken.”

‘Link-analysis’ opposition

The system’s reputation is not only suffering from a poor operational test report. It also is facing competition from systems developed by high-tech firms. The private-sector systems are sold directly to combat units that petition for emergency funds outside the fixed defense budget.

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