“You have a very powerful personality,” Mr. Hunter said. “But that doesn’t refute the facts you have gaps in the capability.”
The Times has obtained a chain of Army emails about the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., setting up a major communications exercise last month for the common-ground defense system.
In the emails, the colonel in charge tells units, which include the 82nd Airborne Division, that the exercise is an “opportunity to again work through the complexities of the [common-ground system’s] architecture and connectivity,” and a chance to “identify/resolve the challenges we are seeing with [the system] at the user level.”
After seeing the emails, Mr. Hunter’s spokesman Joe Kasper said, “It’s absolutely amazing to see just how much muscle it takes to organize an exercise with [the common-ground system]. If it takes that much to organize something on a scale smaller than a full operational setting, then what does that say about the use and effectiveness of [the system in] Afghanistan?”
Army spokesman George Wright said Tuesday that the system “is the Army’s program of record and currently being used in every operational theater the Army is deployed to a great deal of success. It enables decision-makers at all levels to save lives every day. Units train to maintain proficiencies and increase their collective skill sets, and exercises like these are a vital part of the process.”
“When systems come back from any theater of operations, they need to be re-calibrated and that’s what was being done in this instance,” Mr. Wright said. “There are numerous successes from this same exercise, and the 18th [Airborne Corps] is building upon that. The identification of challenges are part of any training and are key to improving upon the system and unit processes.
“The 18th [Airborne Corps] has a global responsibility, and what they were doing was practicing their worldwide response capabilities. [The common ground system] is stable and working in Afghanistan right now, every day, and enables decision-makers to save lives. Soldiers are not having problems with the system there or anywhere.”
At April’s hearing, Gen. Odierno vigorously defended the network, saying many soldiers praise it for each one who criticizes it.
With some members of Congress urging a funding cutoff, the Army has gone into overdrive to sell the program on Capitol Hill. It put on a demonstration of the system for the press and lawmakers at Fort Belvoir.
The Army is requesting $270 million next year for the system, which will bring its total cost to $3 billion.