Resistance to DCGS-A persists

Resistance to DCGS-A persists

The Army’s main intelligence gathering component, the Distributed Common Ground System, continues to face criticism among lawmakers and members of the military.

DCGS, initiated in 1998, is envisioned as an integrated, interoperable suite of systems for collecting and sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data from many sources. It contains tools such as QueryTree, Link Analysis and the Tactical Entity Database. The Army, Air Force and Navy each operate their own versions of DCGS, which across the military has been estimated to eventually cost more than $10 billion.

The current controversy has focused on the long-held desire of Army special operations units to use a different intelligence system given widespread disappointment with DCGS-A.  However, they are purportedly being forced into using the system despite its apparent shortfalls. 

"You literally have these old tired (bureaucrats) stopping the warfighter from getting what they know works," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) who was quoted by the Associated Press

While special operations units have previously used and prefer a platform by Palantir for intelligence gathering, the Army has been ordering personnel to use DCGS-A. Requests to use Palantir are being processed on a case-by-case basis, according to AP.

But officials at the Pentagon said Palantir does not have all the necessary operational capabilities that DCGS possesses, such as electronic intercept capabilities and systems that analyze drone footage.  However, special operations units that have made requests to use Palantir in place of DCGS have stated that existing systems do not meet their needs. 

Intelligence officials who use Palantir said they feel more comfortable with that system and believe it is significantly easier to use, according to AP.

Lawmakers have weighed in against Pentagon pressure to deny soldiers’ requests to use Palantir.  DCGS has “failed the warfighter and the taxpayer. ... It's a shame that the Army won't give the troops technology that works and is less expensive when lives hang in the balance,” the AP quoted from a statement made by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). 

Criticism like this led the Army to announce in December that it would form teams of experts to help with DCGS-A training, which officials said would address complaints about ease of use.

Meanwhile, the Army has continued to build upon what Col. Robert Collins, project manager of DCGS-A, stated a few months ago were the intelligence suite’s strong points with the release of an RFI for Increment 2, which will boost the system's ease-of-use by improving "software-based tools soldiers use to analyze and integrate data and visualize intelligence information."

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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