A member of the House Armed Services Committee is calling for a congressional investigation into the Army’s handling of a software program the Pentagon opposes but U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan say saves their lives by detecting roadside bombs.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, asked for the House probe in a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its subcommittee on national security.
The committee is expected to decide next week whether to seek documents and testimony about the computer program, Palantir, which soaks up large quantities of battlefield data and helps point intelligence officers to buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
House sources say investigators would look at the Army’s decision to kill a completed test report on Palantir and replace it with a new report that deleted some favorable assessments and also removed a recommendation to buy Palantir servers.
Mr. Hunter has charged that Army procurement officials discouraged commanders from acquiring the off-the-shelf Palantir while promoting the service’s own product, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).
The Washington Times this month first reported that soldiers had to fight the bureaucracy earlier this year to buy Palantir, which requires special purchase approval because it is not in the Army’s annual budget. An internal email showed an Army procurement official in January trying to “turn off” a request from the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan to buy Palantir.
The Times also reported a written assessment by the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) in April was ordered killed and destroyed.
“The idea that ground combat units in Afghanistan are being denied intelligence tools that are requested and readily available is unsettling and underscores a major failure in a process that is intended to deliver resources to the warfighter as quickly as possible,” Mr. Hunter wrote to the committee. “This is evidently a systemic problem that cannot go unaddressed.”
An Army spokesman this week said an officer has been appointed to conduct an in-house investigation.
An Army statement said the service in May signed a cooperative agreement to assess the effectiveness o integrating Palantir with the common ground system.
A House staffer said that, while the Army statement implies the service is open to buying Palantir, internal emails tell a different story of soldiers having to fight the bureaucracy to buy it.
The Army has not publicly said why the ATEC report was ordered destroyed. A spokesman said The Times does not have the full story.
Mr. Hunter also sent a letter this week to Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, asking for details on the in-house probe.
“With so much at stake on the ground for our men and women, it is important that they receive the most technologically advanced assets available, whether it is an organic asset within the services or a commercial off-the-shelf product,” he wrote.
“Still, I am frustrated that even the chief of staff of the Army can’t receive an honest and transparent assessment from his own independent evaluation command, ATEC, without some interference by mid-level bureaucrats.”
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