Soldier battling bombs irked by software switch

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A senior enlisted man in Afghanistan subsequently signed a memo that ordered the destruction of the April 25 report.

“Please ensure that any and all copies of the 25 April report are destroyed and not distributed,” the memo said.

“Upon destruction of the previous report, please confirm to me in email that all copies of the original report dated 25 April has been destroyed. If possible, can you please provide me the names of the individuals that the 25 April report was sent to.”

An Army spokesman told The Times on Sunday that the newspaper did not have the full story, but that it was difficult to come up with an official response over the weekend.

An internal email from an Army official, who defended the revision, told colleagues that the first report was killed because it contained inaccuracies and that the action was not taken to protect the common ground system.

Some of the changes made in the second ATEC report appeared designed to dampen demand for Palantir.

In the “findings” section, for example, the second report deletes a paragraph that told of how Palantir allows war fighters to simultaneously search multiple databases, including information from British intelligence sources.

“This capability enables analysts to rapidly execute necessary data mining and create products that are requested by units for operations and missions more efficiently,” the erased paragraph said.

The second report removed a recommendation that the Army install more Palantir services in Afghanistan. It also deleted a recommendation that the Army institutionalize Palantir by creating formal training classes for intelligence officers.

In the recommendation section, the first report contained criticisms of the Distributed Common Ground System. It quoted a supervisor as saying, “DCGS is overcomplicated, requires lengthy classroom instruction, and is an easily perishable skill set if not used constantly.”

That comment was removed from the recommendation section but kept in the last pages of the report grouped with many other comments.

Frustrated intel officer

The Times also obtained documents showing the active effort by Army headquarters to keep Palantir from the field. The 82nd Airborne Division, based in regional command south in Afghanistan, had to prod the Army bureaucracy for permission to buy Palantir via the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force in the winter.

An internal Army email among acquisition officials referred to “our efforts to turn off REF funding of Palantir for the 82nd’s [counter-IED] cell.”

At one point, a frustrated 82nd Airborne intelligence officer wrote to higher-ups, “We are trying to solve some very hard problems that pose life or death issues for the soldiers under this command, and [DCGS] is not making our job easier, while Palantir is giving us an intelligence edge. This is a pretty big redline for many of the units in the field, of which 82nd Airborne Division is certainly the most visible.”

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