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Soldier battling bombs irked by software switch
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).
“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.
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).
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.”
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.
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